दलितों के खिलाफ़ गाय एक राजनीतिक हथियार के रूप में
by गुरिंदर आज़ाद
समसामयिक मुद्दों पर साक्षात्कार और डॉक्यूमेंट्रीज की आंबेडकर युग श्रृंखला में, गुरिंदर आज़ाद राउंड टेबल इंडिया के लिए अरविंद शेष और रजनीश कुमार का इंटरव्यू लेते हैं. दोनों पेशे से पत्रकार और सामाजिक चिन्तक हैं. वे पूरे मुद्दे को विभिन्न आयामों से विश्लेषित करते हैं.
गुरिंदर आज़ाद द्वारा लिया गया यह इंटरव्यू 13 अगस्त 2016 को Youtube पर और Round Table India प्रकाशित हुआ था,
गुजरात के दलितों ने चार युवा दलितों पर हुए अत्याचार का अपने ख़ुद के सशक्त तरीके से जवाब देकर एक उदाहरण सेट किया है. उन युवा दलितों पर बर्बरता केवल इसलिए हुई क्योंकि वे मृत गाय को ढो रहे थे. उन्होंने अपने ‘ पारंपरिक’ काम को ब्राह्मणवादी व्यवस्था के विरोध में एक विद्रोह के रूप में छोड़ दिया. अहमदाबाद से ऊना तक एक रैली का आयोजन किया गया जहां यह शर्मनाक घटना हुई. हालांकि, इस पूरे प्रकरण के अन्य पहलू भी हैं जिन्हें दलित-बहुजन लोकेशन से भी समझने की आवश्यकता है.
गुरिंदर आज़ाद - अरविंद जी राउंड टेबल इंडिया के कार्यक्रम अम्बेडकर ऐज में आपका स्वागत है, रजनीश जी आपका भी स्वागत है. रजनीश जी मौजूदा भारत में गाय प्रकरण में जो भी मामला है, सबके सामने है. हम ऐसे बहुत रोमांचक दौर में हैं जहां गाय के लिए हलचल है, गाय पर हलचल है! गाय को केंद्र में रखकर जो राजनीति बुनी गयी है, आप इस पर क्या कहते हैं?
रजनीश कुमार - बिलकुल ठीक कहा आपने हम भारतीय राजनीति के बहुत ही रोमांचक दौर में हैं जहां गाय पर और गाय के लिए हलचल है! ये बिलकुल उसी तरह का मामला है जैसे हम तीन लोग यहाँ पर जमा हैं और उसमें से आपको चिन्हित कर लिया जाए एक प्रतिष्ठित व्यक्ति के तौर पर और बाकी हम दोनों को तवज्जो ना दी जाए. आपके लिए तमाम सुख-सुविधाएं और आपके साथ जो व्यवहार हो, वो एक विशेष व्यवहार हो, ये जो इस तरह की मनोवृत्ति है, उसका एक एक्सटेंशन चल रहा है, हो रहा है. जैसे आम बोल-चाल में आप पाएंगे, आपने गौर किया होगा कि खास सरनेम वाले लोग, उन्हें जब आपको बुलाना होता है, ऑटोमेटिकली आपके मुंह से सम्मान-सूचक शब्द निकलता है.. जी! उन लोगों के नाम के साथ जुड़ कर आता है. लेकिन आप देखेंगे, मैं आपको एक उदाहरण देता हूं बिहार से - बिहार में बहुत सारे मुख्यमंत्री हुए उनको हम सब उनके नाम के साथ जी से, बोलचाल में जी के साथ संबोधन करते रहे लेकिन जब लालू यादव चीफ मिनिस्टर हुए तब आम बोल-चाल की भाषा में ललुआ शब्द का प्रचलन हुआ. तो ये जो मनोवृत्ति है, इसका एक्सटेंशन राजनीति में हो रहा है और जैसे हमारे दैनिक जीवन में बहुत सारे जानवर हैं, गाय है तो भैंस भी है, घोड़ा भी है, गधा भी है लेकिन गाय को एक पवित्र जानवर के तौर पर चिन्हित करना और उसको स्थापित करना, ये और कुछ नहीं एक सामंती मनोवृत्ति का प्रतिफलन है राजनीति में और उसकी वजह भी है. ये आपने देखा होगा 1990 के बाद से कहते हैं दलित-पिछड़ों का उभार, राजनीति में जो बहुत तेजी से उभार हुआ, बहुत ज़ोरदार तरीके से हुआ. उसने भारतीय राजनीति को पूरी तरह से मथ दिया, बदलके रख दिया. जाहिर है उसके पहले, 1990 के पहले जो सत्ता में थे, सामाजिक सत्ता में और राजनीतिक सत्ता में जो हावी थे, उनके लिए ये बिलकुल प्रतिकूल परिस्थिति जैसा है तो 1990 के बाद राजनीति में सामाजिक न्याय का विचार जो उभरा, उसको एक दूसरे विचार से दबाने की कोशिश जो हो रही है, उसके टूल के तौर पर ये गाय का मामला भारतीय राजनीति में आया है.
गुरिंदर आज़ाद – अरविंद जी आपसे जानना चाहूंगा कि आपका क्या मत है इसके ऊपर, इस मुद्दे पर?
अरविंद शेष - गाय हमारी माता है..
गुरिंदर आज़ाद – ये तो हम बचपन में सुनते आये हैं कि गाय हमारी माता है, हम लोग एक लेख लिखते थे इसके ऊपर.
अरविंद शेष - मैं वहीँ से इसके ऊपर आना चाहता हूं. रजनीश जी ने बहुत अच्छा ध्यान दिलाया की ये 90 के बाद, मंडल वन के बाद जो दलित-पिछड़ी चेतना का उभार है, उसके काउंटर के लिय भी गाय को रखा गया है. लेकिन मैं वहां से आना चाहता हूं जब स्कूल में ये आपसी बातचीत का हिस्सा था, ये मजाक का ही विषय रहा होगा, पता नहीं कभी हुआ हो या नहीं हुआ हो लेकिन ये था कि किसी विद्यार्थी ने अपनी कॉपी में जानकारी के अभाव में लिख दिया की गाय हमारी माता है. परीक्षा की कॉपी में लिख दिया ‘गाय हमारी माता है, हमको कुछ नहीं आता है.’ तो इसका काउंटर इस रूप में आया की फिर टीचर ने उसी को नंबर देने के लिए लिखा की ‘बैल हमारा बाप है, नंबर देना पाप है.’ मेरा ये कहना है कि तब ये बातें बिलकुल सहज भाव में कही जाती थीं, सहज भाव में सुनी जाती थीं और इस पर कहीं कोई आतंक का माहौल नहीं बनता था, कहीं किसी की हत्या नहीं होती थी, कहीं किसी की पिटाई नहीं होती थी. आज की तारीख में ऐसे उदाहरण अब हमारे सामने आम हैं कि उत्तरप्रदेश के, या हरियाणा के या राजस्थान के किसी सुनसान सड़क पर एक गाड़ी जा रही है, उसमें कुछ अचानक से गोरक्षक, मैं उन्हें गोरक्षक गुंडे कहता हूं, प्रकट होते हैं और उस गाड़ी को रोकते हैं, गाड़ी में गाय, बैल, या भैंस कुछ भी होता है, उसके पाए जाने पर वो अचानक से चिल्लाना शुरू कर देते हैं गाय हमारी माता है, ड्राईवर, खलासी जो भी होता है, जो ले जा रहे होते हैं, उन्हें उतारते हैं, बहुत बर्बरता से उनकी पिटाई करते हैं और थोड़ा विरोध करने पर या किसी और वजह से उनको मारके पेड़ पर भी लटका देते हैं तो अगर उस समय वो गोरक्षक गुंडे जब चिल्ला रहे होते हैं गाय हमारी माता है तो जो पीड़ित उस समय हो रहे हैं तो उस समय क्या वो किसी हालत में ये सोच भी सकते हैं कि अगर गाय तुम्हारी माता है तो बैल तुम्हारा बाप है. अगर ऐसा कभी हो तो शायद वो किन्हीं स्थितियों में जिंदा छोड़ दिए जाते हैं लेकिन ये कहने के बाद शायद उनको जिंदा भी जला दिया जाएगा. ऐसा हो ही रहा है! तो स्कूल में जब हम पढ़ते थे, बहुत छोटे थे तो उस समय से ये बात चली आ रही थी की ‘गाय हमारी माता है, हमको कुछ नहीं आता है, बैल हमारा बाप है, नंबर देना पाप है’. आज की स्थिति देख लीजिए गाय हमारी माता है, के खिलाफ़ आप अगर सोचते भी हैं, अगर ये नहीं भी सोचते हैं तब भी आपके साथ क्या हो सकता है! ये अंदाज़ा आप लगा सकते हैं.
लातेहर में, झारखण्ड के लातेहर में एक 12 साल का बच्चा और एक 35 साल का युवक जो जानवर लेके जा रहा था, गाय थी, भैंस थी, उनको पकड़कर बकायदा मारा गया, पीटा गया और फांसी जैसा बनाके पेड़ पर लटका दिया गया. इसके अलावा आम-तौर पर ऐसी घटनाएं हो रही हैं, हिमांचल के जंगलों में खदेड़ –खदेड़ के मारा गया. ऐसी तमाम घटनाएं हैं. लेकिन ये घटना आज नहीं शुरू हुई है, ये घटना तब से चली आ रही है, तक़रीबन 12-13 साल पहले की बात है झज्झर के कुलीना गांव में 5 दलित गाय का चमड़ा, मरी हुई गाय का चमड़ा उतार रहे थे, वहां से गुजरते हिंदू परिषद् बजरंगदलियों की भीड़ ने पत्थरों से मार-मारके मार डाला. तब उस समय विश्व हिंदू परिषद् के आचार्य गिरिराज किशोर ने कहा था की 5 दलितों की जान की कीमत एक गाय से कम है मतलब गाय की जान महत्वपूर्ण है. तो जिस दर्शन में ही जिसके विचार में ही ये बात दर्ज है और ये खुले-आम बाकायदा उसके नेता सार्वजनिक रूप से बिना किसी शर्म के, बिना किसी भय के ये घोषणा करते हुए कहते हैं कि 5 दलितों की जान की कीमत एक गाय से कम महत्वपूर्ण है. उस दर्शन से आप उम्मीद क्या करेंगे? वहां से चलते हुए यहाँ तक आप देख लीजिए. लेकिन हां ये ठीक है कि वो उस समय दुलीना में हुआ था लेकिन वो एक प्रवृत्ति का हिस्सा नहीं है, वो अब एक राजनीति का हिस्सा है, मतलब ये सब बाकायदा मुखर राजनीति का हिस्सा हो चुका है. था तो वो भी राजनीति ही, धर्म एक राजनीति है, धर्म की आड़ में एक गाय के रूप में आप दलितों और मुसलमानों की हत्या करते हैं लेकिन आज वो ठोस शक्ल में राजनीति के रूप में सामने है. चारों तरफ़ से ऐसा लग रहा है जैसे कि इधर जाएंगे गाय लेकर, उधर जाएंगे गाय लेकर, वहां से मार दिए जा सकते हैं.
गाय के मांस पर आप बात नहीं कर सकते हैं. अगर आपके घर में, घर के फ्रिज में कोई बकरे का मांस रखा है तो कोई भीड़ आएगी दादरी में और पूरे घर पर हमला कर दिया जाएगा और मारते-मारते मार डाला जायेगा. ठीक है कि ये गाय का मांस खा रहा है. अब ये कानून क्या है, कानून नहीं है इससे उनको कोई मतलब नहीं है. फंसे ये कहां, गुजरात के ऊना में जब सार्वजनिक रूप से चार दलितों को इन लोगों ने गाय का चमड़ा उतारने के आरोप में सार्वजनिक रूप से पिटाई की. संयोग बस यही है कि उसका एक विडियो वायरल हो गया, बहुत सारे लोगों के सामने आया, इस पर आपत्तियां जाहिर हुईं, आपत्तियां सामने आयीं. इसके बाद इसने बहुत ही उग्र आंदोलन के रूप में सत्ता को बताना शुरू किया की गाय अगर आपका हथियार है तो बचना भी मेरा अधिकार है. इसका सामना करना भी मेरा अधिकार है.
गुरिंदर आज़ाद – अरविंद जी आपने बहुत महत्वपूर्ण बात कही. मैं आपके पास लौटता हूं. रजनीश जी चलिए उनकी बात मान लेते हैं कि गाय के साथ उनका कोई पवित्र रिश्ता है लेकिन यहां तो मरी गाय की खाल उतारने की बात है फिर भी दलितों के साथ मार-पीट ! अख़लाक़ के फ्रिज में रखे मांस के टुकड़े को परखने की कोई ज़रुरत नहीं समझी कि वो बीफ़ है या कुछ और है और गुंडई की भीड़ में उन्हें मार डाला. दो-तीन दिन पहले दो मुस्लिम महिलाओं पर हमला हुआ जबकि उनके साथ भैंसे का गोश्त था. मेरा प्रश्न ये है कि संविधान-कानून के होते हुए इनका ख़ुद जज बनना, फ़रमान देना, मार डालना किसी को भी पकड़ के, ये ताकत आती कहां से है?
रजनीश कुमार – एक तो दलित-पिछड़ा उभार भारतीय राजनीति में 1990 के बाद जो आया था, उसने भारतीय समाज, राजनीति को बुरी तरह से मथ दिया था, बदल दिया था. वो सामाजिक-राजनीतिक सत्ताधारियों के मुफ़ीद नहीं था, लगातार इस बात की कोशिश हो रही थी की इस उभार को कैसे वापस पुनः मुसिको भवः वाली स्टाइल में वापिस उसी दशा में पहुंचा दिया जाए. तो जब इस तरह की मानसिकता से लोग चलेंगे तो उसमें संविधान और कायदे-कानून का पालन होगा, ऐसी अपेक्षा रखना अपने आप के साथ ज्यादती है. निश्चित तौर पर नहीं होगा. आप देखें कि इस देश में अम्बेडकर के नाम पर अम्बेडकर की राजनीति का विरोध करने वाले अम्बेडकर की फोटो पर माला तो पहनाते हैं लेकिन अम्बेडकर के विचारों का एक अंश भी अपनी राजनीति में समावेश नहीं करते हैं. तो कायदे-कानून की तो बात दूर है हालात यहां ये हैं कि आज इंडियन एक्सप्रेस सुबह जब मैं पलट रहा था तो एक ख़बर देखी कि एक ट्रक ड्राईवर जो गेहूं लादकर लेकर जा रहा था, गलती से सड़क पर घूमती तीन गायों से उसके ट्रक की टक्कर हो गयी, उसके बाद वो ड्राईवर इतना डर गया कि उसे लगा अब कहीं से भी लोग आयेंगे और मुझे मार डालेंगे. वो नदी में कूद गया और नदी में कूदने के बाद अभी तक उसका कोई अता-पता नहीं है तो कहने का मतलब ये जो माहौल है ये अजीबोगरीब माहौल है.
गुरिंदर आज़ाद - अरविंद जी राजस्थान की ही गोशालाओं में पानी नहीं है, कुछ नहीं है, खाने के लिए नहीं है, वो तो इतनी नेचुरल डेथ भी नहीं मर रही हैं. वो एक तरह से भूख से मर रही हैं. ऐसे में वही गोरक्षक जो इनका दम भरते हैं, वो कहते हैं इनको मार रहे हैं दूसरी तरफ उन्हीं के संरक्षण में गायें हैं जो मर रही हैं , एक तरह से वो भी हत्या है. ये क्या है?
अरविंद शेष- असल में मेरा साफ़–साफ़ मानना है कि गोरक्षकों का या गाय के नाम पर सुरक्षा के लिए चलाने वाले आंदोलनों का मकसद गाय की सुरक्षा करना है ही नहीं. जो लोग इसके केंद्र में हैं, उनको बहुत अच्छे से पता है कि गाय किसी भैंस, या कुत्ते या सुअर या बकरे जैसा ही कोई जानवर है. गाय उनके लिए राजनीति है और राजनीति का मसला ही वहीँ आकर टिक जाता है कि वो अपनी सुविधा के हिसाब से इस्तेमाल करेंगे. वो जिंदा गाय को ढोती हुई किसी गाड़ी को पकड़ेंगे, उसके ड्राईवर या खलासी, उसमें सवार तमाम लोगों को मारेंगे, मार डालेंगे दूसरी तरफ किसी मरी हुई गाय का खाल उतारते हुए दलितों को मारना-पीटना शुरू कर देंगे या मार डालेंगे तो तीसरी तरफ़ उन्हीं की अपनी पार्टी के राज्य में 500 गायें मर जाएंगी भूख से या एक तरह से कहिये की उनकी गाय माताएं यातना से मर जाएंगी, उन पर कोई कार्यवाही नहीं होगी, उनके बारे में कोई पूछने तक नहीं जायेगा कि क्यों मर गयीं इतनी गायें. तमाम बूचड़खानों में से जिनमें से ज्यादातर के मालिक या मालिकान जो हैं वो हिंदू हैं जैन हैं या पारसी हैं, उनके बारे में कोई पूछ-ताछ नहीं होगी.
गुरिंदर आज़ाद - संगीत सोम ?
अरविदं शेष - हां संगीत सोम उनकी अपनी रिश्तेदारी है मतलब ये सारे लोगों को पता है कि वो भाजपा के विधायक हैं और वो कैसे वहां के बूचड़खाने के मालिकाने में हिस्सा रखते हैं, उनके खिलाफ़ कहीं कोई कैंपेन नहीं चलेगा. तो दरअसल ये गाय का रक्षण कोई मसला है ही नहीं इनके लिए. गाय की एक पॉलिटिक्स इनके लिए है. रजनीश जी ने ठीक कहा कि ये खास तरह के आंदोलन, एक खास तरह के विचारे के पैदा होने का ये काउंटर है लेकिन अब सवाल ये है कि वो काउंटर कहां तक जायेगा, कितने लोगों की जान लेगा किस तरह की परिस्थितियों को रचेगा ? वो आबोहवा किसने बनायी? ठीक है सड़क पर सुनसान इलाके में किसी गाड़ी को रोककर वो गुंडे जो हैं लोगों को मारना-पीटना शुरू कर देते हैं, उनको हौसला कहां से मिलता है, कहां से मिलता है? अब ये पूछना चाहिए. कल प्रधानमंत्री ने कहा सड़क पर जो लोग गाय की रक्षा में लगे हुए हैं उनमें से 80 प्रतिशत लोग या ज्यादातर जो हैं उनके गोरखधंधे हैं अपने, उसमें लगे रहते हैं, गौरक्षा से उनका कोई मतलब नहीं है. लेकिन वो सड़क पर घूमने वाले गाय के नाम पर लोगों को मारने-पीटने वाले लोग हैं वो कहां से खुराक पा रहे हैं. खुद 2014 के चुनाव में प्रधानमंत्री मोदी ने गाय को लेकर जिस तरह की संवेदनशीलता प्रकट की थी, कुछ सरकारी मंत्रालयों ने गाय को लेकर जो अपना लगाव पैदा किया है, आधिकारिक रूप से आरएसएस ने गौरक्षण योजना की जो मांग की है, ये सब बातें कहां से आ रही हैं? ये गाय का ही रक्षण हमारे लिए ज़रूरी क्यों है?
गुरिंदर आज़ाद – गाय का रक्षण दूसरी बात ये भी है कि भारत जो है बीफ़ एक्सपोर्ट में सेकंड नंबर पर है.
अरविंद शेष - एक तरफ तो आप बीफ़ एक्सपोर्ट में पहले नंबर पर बनने में लगे हुए हैं दूसरी तरफ गाय का मांस खाने के लिए मना करते हैं तीसरी तरफ अगर कुछ दलित मरी गाय का चमड़ा उतारते हैं तो उनको आप मारना-पीटना, उनके खिलाफ बर्बर अत्याचार करना शुरू कर देते हैं. ये किस तरह की पॉलिटिक्स है? ये इन्सान विरोधी पॉलिटिक्स है और प्रधानमंत्री खड़े होकर वहां बोल रहे हैं कि ये गोरक्षक सेवक से ज्यादा गुंडे हैं या उनका गोरखधंधा है लेकिन इसी में वो एक और पॉलिटिक्स खेल देते हैं. वो जनता को ये बताते हैं कि पुराने ज़माने में हिंदू राजा मुसलमान राजाओं से या दूसरे किसी धर्म के राजाओं से इसलिए हार जाते थे क्योंकि वो जो दूसरे राजा होते थे वे अपनी सेना के आगे गायों को रखते थे. मुझे नहीं मालूम किस मिथक तक में इतिहास की बात तो छोड़ दीजिए किसी मिथक तक में यह बात दर्ज है या नहीं है. मुझे इस बात की जानकारी चाहिए. अगर किसी मित्र को जानकारी हो तो बताएं मुझे की किस लड़ाई में किस राजा ने सेना के आगे गाय की लाइनें खड़ी कर दी थी और किस हिंदू राजा ने उन गायों को मानकर कोई वार नहीं किया और हार गये. तो यहां एक तरफ प्रधानमंत्री जनता को बताते हैं कि ये गोरक्षकों का गोरखधंधा है और दूसरी तरफ उसी अगली लाइन में ये बोल जाते हैं कि एक राजा जो है दूसरे राजा से जीतने के लिए गाय का इस्तेमाल करता था. तो किस तरह की पॉलिटिक्स है ये ?
ये जनता को क्या बेवकूफ बनाने वाला मामला है या उनकी हत्या कराने वाला? जहां तक कानून का सवाल है, मेरा तो मानना है कि ठीक है कई राज्यों में कानून बने हुए हैं कि यहाँ गाय की हत्या ना हो, गाय की हत्या नहीं की जाएगी, गाय का मांस नहीं खाया जाएगा. सवाल ये है कि केवल गाय ही क्यों ? गाय और भैंस में अगर तुलना करते हैं तो हर लिहाज़ से भैंस जो है गाय के मुकाबले कहीं उपयोगी साबित होती है फिर भैंस के लिए कोई कानून क्यों नहीं? गाय ही क्यों उस कानून का संरक्षण प्राप्त करे !
गुरिंदर आज़ाद – रजनीश जी अगर तथ्यों के बिना नरेंद्र मोदी जी यह कहते हैं कि वो जो राजा का उदाहरण देते हैं कि एक राजा दूसरे राजा को हराने के लिए गाय का इस्तेमाल कर रहा है. क्या ये कन्फ्यूजन के लिए है क्या वो जनता को कंफ्यूज करना चाहते हैं? क्योंकि मेरी समझ में तो मैंने ऐसा कुछ पढ़ा नहीं है. मैंने ठीक-ठाक ही वेदों को पढ़ा है.
रजनीश कुमार- बहुत अच्छा सवाल किया है आपने. मैं बार-बार कह रहा हूं कि 1990 के बाद की जो राजनीति है उसको काउंटर करने के लिए कई तरह की तकनीक, कई तरह के तरीके अपनाए जा रहे हैं जिसमें सबसे अहम तरीका जो अभी चल रहा है जिसे अरविंद जी हमेशा कहते हैं पॉलिटिक्स ऑफ़ कनफ्यूज़न. ये पॉलिटिक्स ऑफ़ कन्फ्यूज़न का जो तरीका है ये बिलकुल दिखाई दे रहा है, बिलकुल कंफ्यूज करने का, एक तरफ तो आपका जो जनप्रतिनिधि है वो बर्बर घटना से दुःखी भी दीखता है और दूसरी तरफ ठीक अगले सेकेण्ड उसी राजनीतिक घटना का इस्तेमाल करता है तो इस तरह के कंफ्यूजन, जो सामाजिक सत्ताधारी हैं उनके सामने कोई कंफ्यूजन नहीं है, राजनीतिक सत्ताधारी, सामाजिक सत्ताधारी के सामने कोई कंफ्यूजन नहीं है. उनके लक्ष्य बहुत क्लियर हैं, कंफ्यूजन का मामला वहां आता है जहां वंचित जमात के लोग हैं जिनमें शिक्षा, जागृति की कमी है, ये कंफ्यूजन की पॉलिटिक्स उनके लिए है. उनको भ्रमित करके आप डिसपर्स कर देंगे तो उनकी ताकत अपने आप कम हो जाएगी तो ये उभार जो उभरा था वो अपने आप कमजोर पड़ जाएगा. आप देखिए दुनिया में सबसे ज्यादा दूध उत्पादन करने वाला देश है डेनमार्क. उस डेनमार्क में आज तक मैंने डेनमार्क के बारे में जितना भी पढ़ा-जाना वहां कभी नहीं, मेरे ज़ेहन में तो ये बात याददाश्त में भी नहीं आ रही है कि डेनमार्क के लोग गाय को माता के रूप में मानकर कोई मुहीम चलाते हैं. सवाल ये है कि हम क्या करें ? बात इस पर होनी है और सोचने का विषय ये होना है. जैसे ऊना के लोगों ने दर्शाया है. उन्होंने कहा की जिस काम से, जिस प्रोफेशन से जिस रोज़गार से ज़िल्लत मिलती हो, उसको हम क्यों करें ! तो राजनीति का ये प्रस्थान बिंदु बन सकता है और ये प्रस्थान बिंदु बन गया तो यकीन जानिए की भारतीय राजनीतिक-सामाजिक स्थिति है वो इस कदर बदल जाएगी की एक दूसरी तस्वीर सबके सामने पेश होगी.
गुरिंदर आज़ाद – अरविंद जी ऊना की इस बात को कैसे देखा जाये. उनका जो रिस्पांस था कि मरी हुई गाय को कलेक्टर के यहाँ रखना और वो भी परिसर के अन्दर और ढेर लगा देना, ठीक है एक बात है और दूसरी बात ये है कि गुजरात में हर जगह पर जो गाय मरी हुई हैं, उनको कोई उठाने नहीं आ रहा है, कोई गाय-प्रेमी, कोई गाय-रक्षक भी उठाने नहीं आ रहा है, माता है ! ऐसा व्यवहार! ये जो दोनों बातें हैं, आपका क्या कहना है और मैं पहले मुद्दे पे आना चाहूंगा वो जो ऊना का रिस्पांस है वो क्या कहता है?
अरविदं शेष – एक्चुली मैं तो ऊना के उस दलित प्रतिरोध का कितना भी शुक्रिया करूँ वो शायद कम हो. पिछले दो साल से गाय को इन लोगों ने यानी की आरएसएस के खेमे के तमाम लोगों और समूहों ने जिस तरह का हथियार बनाया हुआ था उसमें तो सबसे मज़ेदार स्थिति यही है कि हम किसी भी समस्या के विश्लेषण और उसका कोई जवाब ढूंढने के लिए आम तौर पर बुद्धिजीवी तबके पर निर्भर रहते हैं, उनसे उम्मीद करते रहते हैं. लेकिन पिछले दो साल में कहीं से ऐसा कोई जवाब आया हो मुझे नहीं पता. एक तरह से वो सब स्तब्ध बैठे थे कि करें तो क्या करें लेकिन ऊना की इस छोटी घटना ने, जहां दलितों ने ये फैसला किया, ऊना के उस वायरल हुए विडियो यानी की जिसमें चार दलितों को मारा गया था, सार्वजनिक रूप से घुमाया गया था, उसके वायरल होने के बाद वहां के दलितों ने ये फैसला किया कि हमको क्या करना है! प्रतिरोध का कौन सा तरीका अपनाया जाना है! उसमें उन्होंने बाकायदा मरी हुई गायों को कलेक्टर के ऑफिस और अन्य दफ्तरों में ले जाकर फेंक दिया. ये प्रतिरोध का ऐसा तरीका था कि इसके बाद वहां के सो-कॉल्ड गौरक्षकों, गोरक्षक गुंडों से लेकर आरएसएस के कोर ग्रुप तक में एक खौफ बैठ गया की इसका जवाब क्या हो! क्योंकि जिस सामाजिक स्थिति को बनाए रखने की पूरी राजनीति को इस तरह के गोरक्षक अभियान चला रहे थे उनका वो सीधा-सीधा ऐसा जवाब था जिसका मतलब कोई उपाय नहीं था. उसमें अब लाचारी आरएसएस, उसके तमाम खेमों की आप ऐसे देख सकते हैं या उसका अंदाज़ा आप ऐसे लगा सकते हैं कि प्रधानमंत्री तक को भी इसका जवाब देना पड़ गया, बोलना पड़ गया. आम तौर पर वो कभी किसी की पिटाई होती है, किसी पर कहीं उन्होंने ट्वीट नहीं किया. जो व्यक्ति सिद्धू की तबियत ख़राब होने पर ट्वीट करता है, उस व्यक्ति को देश में इतनी बड़ी- बड़ी घटनाओं पर बोलने की ज़रुरत नहीं पड़ी थी लेकिन ऊना की घटना ने इतना बड़ा दबाव पैदा किया कि प्रधानमंत्री को यहाँ बोलना पड़ा लेकिन वहां भी उन्होंने कंफ्यूजन की पॉलिटिक्स खेल दी. यह एक पहलू है. दूसरा पहलू ये है कि अब देखना ये चाहिए हम लोगों को की क्या ये गाय की राजनीति केवल गाय की राजनीति है या गाय के बहाने जो है वो 50 तरह के दूसरे मसलों को ढ़कने की कोशिश हो रही है.
तमाम बुद्धिजीवियों को, जानकारों को, आंदोलनकारियों को ये पूछना चाहिए कि पिछले दो सालों में शिक्षा के क्षेत्र में, स्वास्थ्य के क्षेत्र में, रोज़गार के क्षेत्र में सरकार ने क्या किया, उसकी उपलब्धियां क्या हैं, कटौतियां क्या हैं, उसका सामाजिक असर क्या होगा. सबके सामने ये तथ्य हैं कि शिक्षा, सेहत या मनरेगा जैसे कानून में बाकायदा कैसी कटौती की गयी है और इसका सामाजिक असर क्या होने वाला है? अगर शिक्षा कमजोर होती है, सेहत का मामला कमजोर होता है, रोज़गार का मामला कमजोर होता है तो इसका भुक्तभोगी कौन होने वाला है? समाज का दलित –वंचित तबका होने वाला है. जो ठीक से पढ़ेगा नहीं, जिसकी सेहत ठीक से नहीं रहेगी, जिसके पास रोज़गार नहीं होगा वो आखिरकार बेगारी करने की हालत में आएगा, सस्ते मजदूर मिलेंगे और वहां से फिर उसकी सामाजिक स्थिति तय होगी की एक कमजोर व्यक्ति को सामाजिक रूप से गुलाम बनकर रहना है . तो क्या ये बहुत दूरदर्शी नीति के तहत गाय की राजनीति कर रहे थे की बाकी सारी चीज़ों पर जो नीतिगत फैसले किये जा रहे हैं, शिक्षा के क्षेत्र में, अर्थव्यवस्था के क्षेत्र में, तमाम कॉर्पोरेटो पर जिस तरह धन लुटाया जा रहा है, वो सब चीज़ें, रोज़गार की कटौतियां की जा रही हैं, जो मनरेगा 100 दिन का रोज़गार दे रहा था गरीबों को गाँव में, उसमें भी इन्होने कटौती कर दी, अधिकार तो 365 दिन का था रोज़गार का लेकिन जो 100 दिन दे रहा था, उसमें भी इन्होने बहुत तरह की बेईमानियाँ की हैं. अगर वो योजनाएं, वो कानून कम होंगे, कमजोर होंगे उसका असर किस पर पड़ेगा, उसकी पीड़ा किसको झेलनी है, मार किस पर पड़नी है!
तो क्या गाय उन लोगों के अधिकारों को या गाय इस तरह से बचाना उन लोगों के अधिकारों को बहाल कर सकेगा! अगर एक दलित जो मरी हुई गाय की खाल उतारकर अपना पेट भरता है किसी तरह से, अगर वो गाय का चमड़ा उतारना छोड़ दे तो क्या उनके लिए शिक्षा, रोज़गार, सेहत ये सब का मामला आ जायेगा, सुविधाजनक हो जायेगा, क्या वो अपने जीवन-स्तर में कोई सुधार कर पाएंगे क्या उनकी पीढियां बदल सकेंगी? सरकार क्या चाहती है कि एक दलित जो है वो अपनी दलित-दमित अवस्था में बना रहे. अब दूसरा पहलू ये आता है कि जिस तरह के काम के रूप में इसको हिंदू धर्म में मान्यता दी गयी है कि गाय की खाल उतारना क्या है और उस काम को करने वाले की सामाजिक हैसियत क्या है, किस तरह की नज़र से देखा जाता है! ये सैकड़ों गायों को सड़कर मरने के लिए छोड़ देंगे लेकिन उसकी खाल उतारते हुए दलितों को जिंदा जला देंगे या मार डालेंगे या सार्वजनिक रूप से पिटाई करेंगे. किस तरह की राजनीति है ये ! किस तरह की राजनीति को दिमाग में इम्पोज किया जा रहा है कि गाय हमारी माता है और उसके चलते हम किसी को मार डालेंगे ! जानवर के लिए आप आदमी को मार रहे हैं यही आपका धर्म है! अगर किसी भी धर्म में किसी जानवर के चलते किसी आदमी को किसी इंसान को मारने की इज़ाज़त या छूट है या किसी भी रूप में उसका व्यवहार भी है तो उस धर्म पर शर्म किया जाना चाहिए. अब इससे ज्यादा चिंता पैदा होती है कि इस देश का प्रधानमंत्री भी, ठीक है ऐसा नहीं है कि वो अचानक खड़ा हुआ है, वो लोकसभा चुनाव से लेकर तमाम जगहों पर एक माहौल बनाया गया था, इसका असर हम सब आज देख रहे हैं. ऐसा लगता है भारत में इतने बड़े देश में गाय के सिवा कोई दूसरा मुद्दा नहीं है! यह आरएसएस, भाजपा और उसके तमाम साथियों को सोचना चाहिए क्या यह एक शर्म का मामला नहीं है कि जिस देश में इतनी बड़ी आबादी अपने सामाजिक सम्मान, अधिकारों, तमाम अधिकारों से वंचित है उस देश में गाय एक मुद्दा बनकर और शर्मनाक तरीके से लोगों के मारने-पीटने से लेकर बात-चीत बहस का विषय बनी हुई है!
गुरिंदर आज़ाद – अब यह रिस्पांस जो ऊना से आया इसको आप कैसे देखते हैं और दूसरी बात ये कि बाकी के प्रदेश जो हैं उनको इसे क्या लेसन देना चाहिए ?
रजनीश कुमार – देखिए मैंने अभी थोड़ी देर पहले ही कहा था कि वो जो प्रतिरोध प्रतिक्रिया आई है ऊना से वो भारतीय राजनीति का प्रस्थान बिंदु बन सकता है और मैं तो बहुत खुश होऊंगा जब इस प्रतिक्रिया का विस्तार पूरे देश में हो . देश के हर राज्य तक ये पैगाम जाए, इस तरह की प्रतिक्रिया का प्रचार हो और जो भी इस लोकेशन से अपनी राजनीति कर रहे हैं, जो दलित वंचित समाज को संगठित करेंगे उनको चाहिए की इस तरह के और मौलिक तरीके प्रतिरोध के विकसित करें और उसका प्रचार-प्रसार करें और तभी दलित-वंचित जिसको आप कह रहे हैं देश को चलाने वाला तबका जो है अपने हिसाब से इस देश को चला पायेगा. आज तक यही होता रहा है कि देश को चलाने वाला तबका देश को चला नहीं पा रहा है, उसकी नियति उसकी ज़िन्दगी कुछ मुट्ठी भर लोग तय कर रहे हैं. ये डेमोक्रेसी का अद्भुत मामला है जहां बहुमत अपने बारे में फैसला नहीं कर रहा है, चंद मुट्ठी भर लोग उस बहुमत की ज़िन्दगी के बारे में फैसला कर रहे हैं तो ये जो प्रतिक्रिया आई है ऊना से, इसका देश-भर में प्रचार-प्रसार हो और इस तरह का यही एक तरीका नहीं है, इस तरह के मौलिक तरीके और निकलें और खासकर के मुझे नौजवानों से बहुत उम्मीद है, उनके ज़ेहन में कई तरीके ऐसे होंगे, उनका इस्तेमाल करना चाहिए.
गुरिंदर आज़ाद – बिलकुल. अरविंद जी अंत में आप क्या कहना चाहेंगे कि ये गाय की राजनीति यूँ ही चलती रहेगी या फिर एक वक्त अपना समय पूरा करके अपनी राजनीति का सफ़र पूरा करके मर जायेगी ये मुद्दा और फिर कोई और मुद्दा जो है इसी तरह का मिलता-जुलता, वो अपनी जगह बना लेगा और इसी तरह से वो केंद्र में रहेगा और बहुत सारे सवाल जो हैं उसकी छाया में मर जायेंगे.
अरविंद शेष – यह इस बात पर निर्भर करता है कि ऊना में खड़ा हुआ प्रतिरोध किस शक्ल में कहां तक पहुँचता है. इस बात पर निर्भर करेगा की ऊना का आंदोलन अपने किस चरम तक जाता है और कौन सा किस रूप में ठहरता है. अगर यह प्रतिरोध ऊना से निकलकर देश के दूसरे हिस्सों में पहुँचता है तो आरएसएस को अपनी राजनीति, गाय की राजनीति पर पुनर्विचार करना पड़ेगा. उसको कोई दूसरा हथियार ढूंढना पड़ेगा. यहाँ भारतीय जनमानस में आरएसएस की राजनीति को सूट करने वाले बहुत सारे ऐसे मुद्दे भरे पड़े हैं जिसकी राजनीति वो करना चाहते हैं, कर सकते हैं कभी भी. तो जैसे ही उनको लगेगा कि गाय अब उनके गले की फांस बन गयी है तो इस मुद्दे को छोड़कर किसी दूसरे मुद्दे को शिफ्ट करेंगे. अभी वो इसको रिकवर करने में लगे हुए हैं कि ऊना के प्रतिरोध को कैसे कमजोर किया जाए. हालांकि फिलहाल अभी ऐसा नहीं लग रहा है, उसका प्रतिरोध का दायरा बढ़ता चला जा रहा है. इवन न्यूयॉर्क टाइम्स जैसे अखबार गाय की राजनीति के बारे में बाकायदा सम्पादकीय लिखकर सरकार को चेतावनी दे रहे हैं. चेतावनी के लहज़े में उसको आईना दिखा रहे हैं तो ये प्रतिरोध शायद बढ़ेगा लेकिन अगर किन्हीं वजहों से वो कमजोर पड़ता है तो ये गाय के मुद्दे को अलग-अलग शेप में जिंदा रखेंगे लेकिन जो चीज़ें खुलकर आ रही हैं इस बीच, अच्छा ये है कि हमारे पास सोशल मीडिया है और सोशल मीडिया के प्रेशर में सो-कॉल्ड मेनस्ट्रीम मीडिया को भी कुछ चीज़ें लानी पड़ रही हैं. तो कुछ चीज़ें तो खुलकर आ रही हैं कि गाय के चलते इंसानों को मारने वाले ये लोग जो हैं उनका गाय को लेकर वास्तविक सरोकार क्या है. जैसे राजस्थान में हिंगिनिया में 500 गायें मरी उसको लेकर कोई प्रतिक्रिया नहीं, 50 बूचडखाने है, 100 बूचडखाने हैं, उनको लेकर कोई इनकी राय नहीं है, कोई इनका एजेंडा नहीं है. ये सारी बातें जैसे-जैसे आम जनता में फैल रही हैं तो ये जैसे मास का मामला बनती जाएगी यानी की जनसामान्य के बीच में ये मसला फैलेगा की गाय को लेकर इनकी दोहरी राजनीति का मतलब क्या हो सकता है?
एजेंडा इनका पकड़ा जायेगा, चोरी इनकी पकड़ी जाएगी तो ये गाय को छोड़कर किसी और मुद्दे की और शिफ्ट होंगे. अगर ये किसी तरह दबाने की कोशिश में कामयाब हो गये तो अलग फॉर्म में गाय का इनका एजेंडा चलता रहेगा. कोशिश ये होनी चाहिए की जिस तरह ऊना के सामान्य दलित पीड़ितों ने दुनिया के बुद्धिजीवियों को आईना दिखाते हुए एक शानदार मुद्दा दिया है तो अब भारत के उन प्रगतिशील बुद्धिजीवियों से लेके सामाजिक आंदोलनों को चलाने या उसकी इच्छा रखने वाले तमाम लोगों को उस तरह के मॉडल्स को एक ठोस शक्ल दें, एक राजनीति में कन्वर्ट करें और वहां से उसको आगे लेकर चलें वरना इतिहास में यह दर्ज होगा कि जो सामान्य जनता है उसने आरएसएस जैसी अमानवीय, आरएसएस की जो गाय की राजनीति है, ऐसी अमानवीय राजनीति का प्रतिरोध का एक मॉडल दिया, साधारण नागरिकों, साधारण दलितों ने मॉडल दिया, मतलब पीड़ितों ने और उस मॉडल को आगे बढ़ाने में यहां के बुद्धिजीवियों/ प्रगतिशील तबकों की कोई भूमिका नहीं रही. ये देखना पड़ेगा, ये भविष्य बताएगा और भविष्य के कटघरे में यहां सारे लोग खड़े होने वाले हैं. ऊना से जो सवाल उठा है, ऊना ने जो सवाल उठाया है, ये इतनी आसानी से ख़त्म होने वाला नहीं है. ये तमाम बुद्धिजीवियों, प्रगतिशीलता का दावा करने वाले तमाम लोगों के लिए चुनौती बनने वाला है.
गुरिंदर आज़ाद – रजनीश जी अभी एक यात्रा जो है गुजरात में निकाल रहे हैं, 15 अगस्त को जो पहुंचेगी ऊना में. अब मामला ये है कि ये पूरा जो ऊना से रिस्पांस आया है, सरकार सजग है, गोरक्षक सजग हैं, जिस गाय की राजनीति को लेकर जो पूरा माहौल बनाया है, उसके जो काउंटर में ऊना का रिस्पांस और इस रिस्पांस के काउंटर में क्या हो सकता है? कौन सी ऐसी चीज़ें हैं जो अब जैसे इस ऊना के रिस्पांस को या ऊना का जो अस्सरशन है, ऊना के जो लोग हैं, जिन्होंने इसको अंजाम दिया है, उनको बचना चाहिए.
रजनीश कुमार - देखिए सबसे पहले जो काम करना पड़ेगा वो ये करना पड़ेगा की ठीक-ठीक से चिन्हित करना पड़ेगा कि कौन हमारे असली मित्र हैं. भारतीय राजनीति में हम अक्सर ये गलती करते रहे हैं कि अलग-अलग नाम वाले दलों को अलग-अलग विचार वाले दल भी समझते रहे हैं. ये पहचान करनी पड़ेगी की कौन से राजनीतिक दल हैं जो विचार से एक जैसे हैं जो दलित-वंचितों के हकों की, उनके उभार के खिलाफ विचार रखते हैं और कौन से ऐसे दल हैं जो वाकई उनकी चिंता में मुब्तिला हैं. अब देखें की जो ये मार्च चल रहा है, उसमें कौन लोग हैं, उनकी ईमानदारी कितनी है, कौन लोग हैं जिनका इंटरेस्ट इस बात में है कि ये आंदोलन बिखरे, जो संगठन अहमदाबाद में एक प्लेटफार्म पर आये थे, वो अलग –अलग क्यों हो रहे हैं और ये अलगाव- बिखराव के बिंदु क्या हैं? इसके पीछे कौन हैं? इन सारे मुद्दों पर सतर्कता के साथ विश्लेषण करना पड़ेगा और जब तक यह पहचान और विश्लेषण नहीं करेंगे तो बार-बार यही होगा ठगे जायेंगे.. और ठगे जायेंगे तो एक आंदोलन जो भारतीय राजनीति का प्रस्थान बिंदु बन सकता था वो फिर से इतिहास के किसी कोने में जाकर दर्ज होकर रह जायेगा.
गुरिंदर आज़ाद – चलिए ठीक है रजनीश जी आपका बहुत-बहुत धन्यवाद. अरविंद जी आपका भी बहुत-बहुत धन्यवाद.
अरविंद शेष – आपका भी बहुत-बहुत धन्यवाद
गुरिंदर आज़ाद - ये थे हमारे साथ रजनीश जी और अरविंद जी. राउंडटेबल इंडिया के अगले कार्यक्रम में हम फिर प्रस्तुत होंगे किसी अन्य विषय के साथ. तब तक इज़ाज़त दीजिए. जय भीम !
इस वीडिओ इंटरव्यू का ट्रांसक्रिप्शन पुष्पा यादव ने किया है
World Report 2019
Event in India 2018
In 2018, the government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) harassed and at times prosecuted activists, lawyers, human rights defenders, and journalists for criticizing authorities. Draconian sedition and counterterrorism laws were used to chill free expression. Foreign funding regulations were used to target nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) critical of government actions or policies.
The government failed to prevent or credibly investigate growing mob attacks on religious minorities, marginalized communities, and critics of the government—often carried out by groups claiming to support the government. At the same time, some senior BJP leaders publicly supported perpetrators of such crimes, made inflammatory speeches against minority communities, and promoted Hindu supremacy and ultra-nationalism, which encouraged further violence.
Lack of accountability for past abuses committed by security forces persisted even as there were new allegations of torture and extrajudicial killings, including in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Haryana.
The Supreme Court decriminalized homosexual sexual relations, striking down a colonial-era law, paving the way for full constitutional protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people.
Impunity for Security ForcesThere were repeated allegations of violations by government forces in Jammu and Kashmir during security operations. In 2018, there was increased violence involving militants that many attributed to political failures to ensure accountability for abuses. Militants killed at least 32 policemen in 2018. In August, in retaliation for the arrest of their relatives, militants in South Kashmir kidnapped 11 relatives of several policemen. The militants released all relatives of police personnel after authorities released the family members of the militants. In November, militant group Hizbul Mujahideen killed a 17-year-old boy in Kashmir on suspicion that he was a police informer, and released the video of the killing as a warning to others. Militants killed several other people in 2018 on suspicions of being police informers. In June, unidentified gunmen killed prominent journalist Shujaat Bukhari, editor of the Rising Kashmir, outside the newspaper’s office in Srinagar.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights released its first-ever report on the human rights situation in Kashmir in June. The report focused on abuses since July 2016, when violent protests erupted in response to the killing of a militant leader by soldiers. The government dismissed the report, calling it “fallacious, tendentious and motivated.”
The report described impunity for human rights violations and lack of access to justice, and noted that the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA) impede accountability for human rights violations.
The AFSPA, which is also in force in several states in India’s northeast, provides soldiers effective immunity from prosecution for serious human rights abuses. The government has failed to review or repeal the law despite repeated recommendations from several government-appointed commissions, UN bodies and experts, and national and international rights groups.
In March, in a welcome step, the government removed AFSPA from the northeastern state of Meghalaya and from 8 out of 16 police stations in Arunachal Pradesh.
In May, police shot at demonstrators protesting a copper plant in Tamil Nadu state, killing 13 people and injuring 100. Police said they were compelled to respond with live ammunition after demonstrators stoned the police, attacked a government building, and set vehicles on fire. A fact-finding report by activists and civil society groups said police failed to follow standard operating procedures for crowd control.
After the BJP formed the government in Uttar Pradesh state, 63 people died in alleged extrajudicial killings by state police between March 2017 and August 2018. The National Human Rights Commission and the Supreme Court sought responses from the state government. The killings in Uttar Pradesh highlighted the lack of accountability for police abuses and the need for police reforms.
Dalits, Tribal Groups, and Religious MinoritiesMob violence by extremist Hindu groups affiliated with the ruling BJP against minority communities, especially Muslims, continued throughout the year amid rumors that they traded or killed cows for beef. As of November, there had been 18 such attacks, and eight people killed during the year.
In July, the government in Assam published a draft of the National Register of Citizens, aimed at identifying Indian citizens and legitimate residents following repeated protests and violence over irregular migration from Bangladesh. The potential exclusion of over four million people, many of them Muslims, from the register raised concerns over arbitrary detention and possible statelessness.
Dalits, formerly “untouchables,” continued to be discriminated against in education and in jobs. There was increased violence against Dalits, in part as a reaction to their more organized and vocal demands for social progress and to narrow historical caste differences.
In November, farmers protested against debt and lack of state support for rural communities, and called for establishing rights of women farmers and protecting the land rights of Dalits and tribal communities against forcible acquisition.
In April, nine people were killed in clashes with police after Dalit groups protested across several north Indian states against a Supreme Court ruling to amend the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. In response to a complaint of alleged misuse of the law, the court had ordered that a senior police official should conduct a preliminary inquiry before a case is registered under the law. Following the widespread protests, the parliament passed amendments to the law in August, overturning the Supreme Court order.
In July, police in Ahmedabad city raided an area, home to 20,000 members of the vulnerable and marginalized Chhara tribe, a denotified tribe. According to residents, police allegedly brutally beat up scores of people, damaged property, and filed false cases against many of them.
A January report by a government-appointed committee on denotified tribes—tribes that were labeled as criminal during British colonial rule, a notification repealed after independence—said they were the most marginalized communities, subject to “social stigma, atrocity and exclusion.”
Tribal communities remained vulnerable to displacement because of mining, dams, and other large infrastructure projects.
In September, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the biometric identification project, Aadhaar, saying the government could make it a requirement for accessing government benefits and filing income tax, but restricted it for other purposes. Rights groups raised concerns that Aadhaar registration requirements had prevented poor and marginalized people from getting essential services that are constitutionally guaranteed, including food and health care.
Freedom of ExpressionAuthorities continued to use laws on sedition, defamation, and counterterrorism to crack down on dissent.
In April, police in Tamil Nadu state arrested a folk singer for singing a song at a protest meeting that criticized Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In August, state authorities detained an activist for sedition, allegedly for describing police abuses against protesters opposing a copper factory at the UN Human Rights Council. When a magistrate refused to place him in police custody, police arrested him in an older case and added sedition to the charges against him. Police have also added charges under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), the key counterterrorism law.
In September, Tamil Nadu state authorities arrested a woman for calling the BJP government “fascist” on board a flight in the presence of the state’s BJP president.
In June, police arrested eight people in Bihar state, including five under the age of 18, for sedition, for playing and dancing to an “anti-India” song.
Journalists faced increasing pressure to self-censor due to threat of legal action, smear campaigns and threats on social media, and even threats of physical attacks. In August, the government withdrew its controversial proposal to monitor social media and online communications and collect data on individuals after the Supreme Court said it would turn India into a “surveillance state.”
State governments resorted to blanket internet shutdowns either to prevent violence and social unrest or to respond to an ongoing law and order problem. By November, they had imposed 121 internet shutdowns, 52 of them in Jammu and Kashmir and 30 in Rajasthan.
Civil Society and Freedom of AssociationAuthorities increasingly used the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act to target civil rights activists and human rights defenders. Police in Maharashtra state arrested and detained 10 civil rights activists, lawyers, and writers, accusing them of being members of a banned Maoist organization and responsible for funding and instigating caste-based violence that took place on January 1, 2018. At time of writing, eight of them were in jail, and one was under house arrest. A fact-finding committee, headed by Pune city’s deputy mayor, found that the January 1 violence was premeditated by Hindu extremist groups, but police were targeting the activists because of pressure from the government to protect the perpetrators.
In Manipur state, police threatened and harassed activists, lawyers, and families pursuing justice for alleged unlawful killings by government security forces.
The Indian government also continued to use the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) to restrict foreign funding for NGOs critical of government policies or protesting the government’s large development projects. Cases filed by NGOs challenging government decisions to suspend or cancel their FCRA were pending in court.
Women’s RightsNumerous cases of rape across the country once again exposed the failures of the criminal justice system. Nearly six years after the government amended laws and put in place new guidelines and policies aimed at justice for survivors of rape and sexual violence, girls and women continue to face barriers to reporting such crimes. Victim-blaming is rampant, and lack of witness and victim protection laws make girls and women from marginalized communities even more vulnerable to harassment and threats.
Starting in September, numerous women in India’s media and entertainment industries shared their accounts on social media of workplace sexual harassment and assault, as part of the #MeToo movement. These public accounts, naming the accused, highlighted the failures of due process, lack of mental health services and support for survivors, and the urgent need to fully implement the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act of 2013, which prescribes a system for investigating and redressing complaints in the workplace.
In September, the government launched a national registry of sexual offenders, which would store the name, address, photo, fingerprints, and personal details of all arrested, charged, and convicted of sexual offenses. The database, available only to law enforcement agencies, raised concerns regarding data breaches and violations of privacy protections, including for individuals never convicted of a sexual offense.
In September, the Supreme Court lifted the ban on entry of women of menstruating age—between 10 and 50—to a temple in southern India, on grounds of nondiscrimination, equality, and women’s right to practice religion. This prompted protests from devotees, including women, who tried to stop girls and young women from entering the temple. The same month, the top court struck down an archaic law that criminalized adultery.
Children’s RightsIn April, the government passed an ordinance introducing capital punishment for those convicted of raping a girl under 12 years of age. The new ordinance also increased minimum punishment for rape of girls and women.
The ordinance was a response to the widespread criticism and protests after two prominent cases. In one, some leaders and supporters of the ruling BJP defended alleged Hindu perpetrators of the abduction, ill-treatment, rape, and murder of an 8-year-old Muslim child in Jammu and Kashmir state. The second was in Uttar Pradesh state, where authorities not only failed to arrest a BJP legislator accused of raping a 17-year-old girl, but also allegedly beat her father to death in police custody.
The ordinance was widely criticized by rights groups. However, in August, with parliament’s approval, the ordinance became law.
Child labor, child trafficking, and poor access to education for children from socially and economically marginalized communities remained serious concerns throughout India.
Sexual Orientation and Gender IdentityIn September, India’s Supreme Court struck down section 377 of India’s penal code, decriminalizing consensual adult same-sex relations. The ruling followed decades of struggle by activists, lawyers, and members of LGBT communities. The court’s decision also has significance internationally, as the Indian law served as a template for similar laws throughout much of the former British empire.
In December, the lower house of parliament passed the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2018. Rights groups and a parliamentary committee had criticized an earlier version of the bill for contradicting several provisions laid down in a 2016 Supreme Court ruling. Although the government incorporated several amendments in the revised bill, it failed to adequately protect the community, including transgender people’s right to self-identify.
Disability RightsWomen and girls with disabilities continue to be at a heightened risk of abuse. Even though the laws on sexual violence include several provisions to safeguard the rights of women and girls with disabilities and facilitate their participation in investigative and judicial processes, girls and women with disabilities face serious barriers in the justice system.
Foreign PolicyThe Indian government spoke out against Maldives President Abdulla Yameen’s crackdown on opposition leaders and declaration of a state of emergency, despite concerns that criticism of the Maldives’ leader would push the country further toward China. This led to tense relations between the two countries. India aimed to repair ties with the Maldives after Yameen was defeated in elections held in September 2018.
In June, India joined 119 other countries in voting in favor of a United Nations General Assembly resolution that deplored Israel’s “excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate” use of force against Palestinian civilians in Gaza after the United States vetoed a similar resolution at the UN Security Council.
In May, Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj visited Myanmar and said India would help to ensure a “safe, speedy and sustainable” return of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslim refugees who had fled to Bangladesh during a campaign of ethnic cleansing by security forces in late 2017. Swaraj reaffirmed India’s commitment to socioeconomic development projects in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, but did not call on the Myanmar government to check abuses by its security forces or amend its discriminatory citizenship law that effectively keeps the Rohingya stateless. In October, the Indian government deported seven Rohingya to Myanmar, where they are at grave risk of abuse, prompting condemnation from rights groups at home and abroad.
A public call on rights protections did not feature during bilateral engagement with other neighbors including Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Afghanistan. Relations with Pakistan were marked by angry allegations and counter-allegations of sponsoring violent groups.
Key International ActorsIn September, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense James Mattis visited India to hold talks with their counterparts to strengthen trade, economic, and defense cooperation between the two countries, but there was no public discussion of the human rights situation in either country.
Throughout the year, the UN special procedures issued several statements raising concerns over a slew of issues in India including sexual violence, discrimination against religious minorities, targeting of activists, and lack of accountability for security forces.
The UN special rapporteur on racism called the decision to deport seven Rohingya back to Myanmar a “flagrant denial of their right to protection.”
The Dalits | Still untouchable
Years after Independence, political rhetoric and Constitutional protection have failed to end atrocities against Dalits. Is Ambedkar's dream of social and economic equality a bridge too far?
Ajit Kumar JhaFebruary 3, 2016
Illustration by Saurabh Singh
"The State shall promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker section of the people, and in particular, of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation."
-Article 46 of the Indian Constitution.
Today, 68 years after Independence, as Dalits continue to bear the brunt of violence and discrimination-highlighted in recent weeks by the tragic suicide of Rohith Vemula, a Ph.D student in the Hyderabad Central University who hanged himself, blaming his birth as a "fatal accident" in a chilling final note-we could not be any further away from what the Constitution had demanded from a free and fair India.
Students protesting against the death of doctoral student Rohith Vemula. Photo: M ZhazoRohith's is not the lone tragedy. A spectre of suicide deaths by several Dalit students is haunting India. Out of 25 students who committed suicide only in north India and Hyderabad since 2007, 23 were Dalits. This included two in the prestigious All-India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, and 11 in Hyderabad city alone. Systematic data does not exist for such suicides, but the problem runs far deeper than a few students deciding to end their own lives after being defeated by the system.Dalit dilemma in India reads like an entire data sheet of tragedies. According to a 2010 report by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on the Prevention of Atrocities against Scheduled Castes, a crime is committed against a Dalit every 18 minutes. Every day, on average, three Dalit women are raped, two Dalits murdered, and two Dalit houses burnt. According to the NHRC statistics put together by K.B. Saxena, a former additional chief secretary of Bihar, 37 per cent Dalits live below the poverty line, 54 per cent are undernourished, 83 per 1,000 children born in a Dalit household die before their first birthday, 12 per cent before their fifth birthday, and 45 per cent remain illiterate. The data also shows that Dalits are prevented from entering the police station in 28 per cent of Indian villages. Dalit children have been made to sit separately while eating in 39 per cent government schools. Dalits do not get mail delivered to their homes in 24 per cent of villages. And they are denied access to water sources in 48 per cent of our villages because untouchability remains a stark reality even though it was abolished in 1955.
We may be a democratic republic, but justice, equality, liberty and fraternity-the four basic tenets promised in the Preamble of our Constitution-are clearly not available to all. Dalits continue to be oppressed and discriminated against in villages, in educational institutions, in the job market, and on the political battlefront, leaving them with little respite in any sphere or at any juncture of their lives.
All this even while there has been no dearth of political rhetoric, or creation of laws, to pronounce that Dalits must not get a raw deal. The Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955, and the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, prescribe punishments from crimes against Dalits that are much more stringent than corresponding offences under the IPC. Special courts have been established in major states for speedy trial of cases registered exclusively under these Acts. In 2006, former prime minister Manmohan Singh even equated the practice of "untouchability" to that of "apartheid" and racial segregation in South Africa.In December 2015, the SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill, passed by Parliament, made several critical changes. New activities were added to the list of offences. Among them were preventing SCs/STs from using common property resources, from entering any places of public worship, and from entering an education or health institution. In case of any violation, the new law said that the courts would presume unless proved otherwise that the accused non-SC/ST person was aware of the caste or tribal identity of the victim.
So why have violent incidents against Dalits increased, rather than decreased over the years, in spite of Constitutional protection and legal safeguards? "Caste is not simply a law and order problem but a social problem. Caste violence can only be eradicated with the birth of a new social order," says Chandra Bhan Prasad, co-author of Defying the Odds: The Rise of Dalit Entrepreneurs. He argues that the upward mobility of some Dalits caused by market reforms post-1991, ironically leads to higher incidence of atrocities in the form of a backlash.
Education, the hotbed
Protest is starting to brew in institutions of higher education. At Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University, hundreds of students gathered at the Ganga dhaba on the eve of Vemula's 27th birthday on January 29 to organise a candlelight vigil. Slogans sliced the silence of the winter night: "Tum kitne Rohithon ko maroge? Har ghar se Rohith niklega (How many Rohiths will you murder? A Rohith will rise from every household)", and "Jaativaad pe halla bol, Brahminvaad pe halla bol, Hindutva pe halla bol, Manuvaad pe halla bol (Raise you voice against casteism, Brahminism, Hindutva, and discrimination)!" Next afternoon, the students held a protest rally at the city's RSS headquarters in Jhandewalan to celebrate Rohith's birthday. The police retaliated with batons.
Organised under the aegis of Joint Action Committee (JAC), the students were led by the Birsa Munda, Phule and Ambedkar Student's Association (BAPSA), a body formed on November 14, 2014. Birsa, Phule and Ambedkar have replaced Marx, Lenin and Mao in JNU as icons of "identity", and "caste" replaces "class" as the main issue.Who are the new student leaders? Sanghapalli Aruna Lohitakshi, a linguistics Ph.D student from Vishakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, is one of the founding members of BAPSA, which is akin to poet Namdeo Dhasal's Dalit Panthers of the 1970s. She speaks of "ghettoisation by upper-caste students," and "Dalit faculty seats being converted into general seats on the pretext that no suitable Dalit candidates were found". Though BAPSA and groups such as the Ambedkar Students' Association spew venom and spit fire, their struggle highlights a form of subversive protest that fights suppression with suicide. To borrow from JNU Professor Gopal Guru, it showcases the "clash between the life of the mind versus the life of the caste".
The primary reason for educational institutions emerging as pulpits of protest lies in the fractured social structure in universities, where the elite of the Dalits are competing with general students. Not only are they more aware of Constitutional provisions, they feel they are treated unfairly by university authorities and student bodies such as the ABVP by virtue of their selection in the reserved category. This is what Rohith had articulated in his suicide note, and was seemingly corroborated by the circumstances behind his suspension from the university after a skirmish with the ABVP.
In villages and urban slums, however, where segregation is rampant to this day, voices are stifled even before they can be raised. A stark example of this is a dusty little hamlet called Sunpedh-meaning empty trees-in Ballabhgarh, Haryana, barely 40 kilometres from Delhi. The tension is palpable, the stillness stifling, as the centre of the village feels like a fortress with 65 Haryana police personnel posted to prevent inter-caste clashes. No one greets anyone, no one is smiling.Untouchability is practised widely in Sunpedh. Ask about Ram Prasad, a local grocery shop-owner, and the instant response from a young man on a motorbike is: "Chamaron ke ilake mein jayiye (Go where the Dalits live). The upper-caste areas are separated from the low-lying Dalit quarters with mud puddles all around.
The entire hamlet comprises approximately 2,700 bighas of land, of which 2,000 bighas is owned by 300 families of Thakurs. The rest is owned by Dalit communities, including 150 Ravidas families, and smaller numbers of Valmikis, Garerias, and Dhimars. Most of the Dalits survive as daily-wage labourers in the farms of the Thakurs.
Here, on the night of October 21, 2015, four members of a Dalit family were set ablaze inside their house: Jitender, his wife Rekha, and their children Vaivhav, 2, and Divya, nly 10 months old. The village erupted in grief and indignation the next day when the bodies of the infants, wrapped in white shrouds, arrived for cremation. Jitender escaped while Rekha suffered serious burn injuries. Their gutted home is officially sealed, guarded by the police.
Jitender's mother Santa Devi, his 85-year old grandmother Buddhan Devi, his aunt Kanta (all three are widows) and his married sister Gita, sleep in the open in the severe winter cold since the house is officially sealed. "There seems no flame of justice, no place to live, no one to earn, no money for lawyers, no one to care for us three widows," says Buddhan. "My brother Jitender threatens to commit suicide every day. Suicide, like the Rohith Vemula case, seems like the only option for a Dalit," laments Gita. A majority of the heinous crimes against Dalits, as documented by the NHRC, are perpetrated in villages in which they are treated as second-class citizens.
But discrimination isn't a rural problem alone. Joblessness among Dalits runs through the urban landscape as well. According to 2011 Census data, the unemployment rate for SCs between 15 and 59 years of age was 18 per cent, including marginal workers seeking work, as compared to 14 per cent for the general population. Among STs, the unemployment rate was even higher at over 19 per cent.
Government data suggests that the usual suspect in terms of incidence of crime committed against SCs is the Hindi heartland. Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan top the list with 8,075 and 8,028 cases respectively in 2014. Bihar is the third-worst with 7,893 incidents. Neither the political regime, nor the ideology of the ruling political party, nor the presence of major Dalit parties within the states makes a difference. Rajasthan and MP are ruled by BJP governments, Uttar Pradesh by the SP and Bihar by the JD (U). All the parties are equally guilty of sins of omission and commission.
"The absence of social reform movements in the heartland states in contrast to the southern states has contributed to the presence of brutal caste wars in the north," says P.S. Krishnan, a former welfare secretary. In the south, the undivided Andhra Pradesh is the worst performer with 4,114 atrocities recorded in 2014.
Part of the reason for this is the backlash by privileged groups against a new form of assertion of rights and display of aspirations by Dalit youth. The emergence of Dalit parties such as Mayawati's BSP, and the rise of Maoists in Bihar and Andhra Pradesh, explains the rise of violent incidents in these states. An assertion of Dalit rights, whether in terms of identity politics (in Uttar Pradesh), or class politics (Bihar and Andhra Pradesh), leads to a backlash. All through the 1990s, Bihar was wracked by caste wars-most notably Ranvir Sena versus Lal Sena-in parts of Jehanabad, Aurangabad, Gaya and Bhojpur.
Dalit politics typically takes two forms: militant movements and electoral coalitions. The democratic electoral route is ironically poised on the cusp of a cruel paradox in which Dalit groups must either ally with mainstream political parties and risk compromising with the Dalit agenda; or fight it out alone and risk getting pushed to the margins. It is a Hobson's Choice.
The reason is that the spread of Dalit population throughout India is such that by themselves they are always in a minority. In any electoral battle, they can only benefit if they form an alliance either with other dominant caste groups, or mainstream political parties.
In Uttar Pradesh, for example, Mayawati allied initially with mainstream parties-Congress, BJP and the Samajwadi Party-but ended up quitting the alliance each time in a huff. Later, she changed her strategy by forming alliances "directly with upper-caste groups and minorities", says BSP's Sudhindra Bhadoria. "The Brahmins and Thakurs form an alliance with BSP not because they have an ideological affinity but because they want to defeat the Yadav-led SP," adds another BSP leader. In spite of such alliances, however, the BSP faced defeats in the 2012 Assembly polls and 2014 Lok Sabha elections in UP because its math was trumped by the Yadav-Muslim combine and the consolidation of the Hindu vote.
The way out
The obvious ways to ensure that the lot of the Dalits is improved are education, rise in economic status, market reforms transforming the lives of millions of Dalits living in impecunious conditions. But not many experts are convinced of this path to empowerment. "Market reforms can touch the life of a few thousands of Dalits but it simply creates an island of prosperity amongst a sea of penury," says Guru, arguing that social movements are the only solution.
Krishnan, on the other hand, believes that constitutional safeguards and protective legal clauses can play a great enabling role. But, more than any of this, a change of attitude is needed among the ruling classes to stem the tide. Perhaps the best solution was provided by B.R. Ambedkar in the Constituent Assembly. "We are entering an era of political equality. But economically and socially we remain a deeply unequal society. Unless we resolve this contradiction, inequality will destroy our democracy," he had warned.
But nothing learnt; little progress made. The Dalit dilemma, ironically, is the dilemma of India. Some hard questions remain: How long must the discrimination continue? How many dreams must be shattered? How many flames of justice must be extinguished? How many Vaibhavs and Divyas must be burnt alive? How many Rohiths must die to change India, once and for all?
Poet and Dalit activist Pradnya Daya Pawar on the historical and contemporary Dalit concerns, victimization of Dalit women, literature as the weapon of Dalit activism, and the contemporary social, cultural and political climate
Mumbai: When poetry is a conscious act of rebellion, words become weapons of mass uprising. For Pradnya Daya Pawar, the idea of revolt comes from her middle name. Baluta, her father Daya Pawar’s autobiography in Marathi published in 1978, was one of the first personal accounts of a Dalit that soon became a genre in Dalit literature. In 2015, Mumbai-based writer Jerry Pinto translated Baluta into English. Between 1978 and 2018, the literary grammar of Dalit expression, anger and protest went from being a novelty to becoming the norm.
Pradnya Pawar, who to her credit has five anthologies packed full of searing Dalit anger and feminist overtones, is the representative of this transition that still maintains its connect with its poignant past. “The volcano was there in dada’s (her father) writings; the volcano is still right in here. Only his expression was different," the poet, activist and feminist says in an interview ahead of Babasaheb Ambedkar’s birth anniversary on 14 April. Edited excerpts:
Your poetry has a distinctly feminist personality and angst. Where does this anger come from? How does one contextualize the feminine character of your expression?
The anger comes from my own experiences as a Dalit girl, woman and a professional, as well as from what I see happening around me. I grew up in the social and political milieu reverberating with the angry rebellion of the Dalit Panther movement in Maharashtra. The entire Marathwada region and to some extent other parts of Maharashtra were simmering with the demand to rename the Marathwada University after Babasaheb Ambedkar.
Through my father and his associates, I had an immediate exposure to these issues. I was a school-going child but I absorbed whatever I could. And there were Dalit writers, early feminists, who wrote about the atrocities against Dalits, particularly Dalit women. That expression of heartfelt anger became part of my being and has stayed with me.
What I have experienced and seen happen to women, and not only Dalit women, is what has been the historical truth—that it is the women who are the most vulnerable targets of oppression, atrocities, wars, political movements and all such acts of organized mobilization.
From the two women victims in Khairlanji, Maharashtra, in 2006 to the Unnao rape victim (in Uttar Pradesh where a Bharatiya Janata Party legislator has been charged with rape) to the eight-year-old girl in Kathua, Jammu and Kashmir, who was gang-raped and murdered, it is the women who bear the brunt of atrocities. This violence against women has many layers. In Khairlanji, it was because they were Dalits. The Kathua girl was picked up because she was a Muslim. But the Unnao victim is a Hindu. Why was she picked up? Because the men who preside over this system consider women as their personal property to be exploited at their will. The severity of my personal, social, cultural and political experiences as a woman has only sharpened. How can my poetry remain mute when the rape and murder accused of an eight-year-old are defended?
But isn’t the issue of victimization of women much more nuanced? Even within the communities and castes that are at the receiving end of violence and injustice for what they are, their own women are discriminated against. This holds true for Dalit women or Muslim women or even Brahmin women.
Absolutely. In fact, a Dalit woman experiences multiple layers of victimization and discrimination. And it applies to Dalit women irrespective of their social, intellectual and economic standing. I have been a professor for 28 years and I have experienced these multiple layers of discrimination as a Dalit person, as a woman and as a Dalit woman!
Ironically, several men from among Dalits who call themselves progressive and reformist, and many of them are so indeed, have perpetrated this kind of gender discrimination. There have been other Dalit women writers who have experienced this and written about it. Woman, as a gender, faces multiple threats at the macro and micro levels. Globalization represents the macro-level threat when woman has become an economic commodity to be exploited by the capitalist forces. Within societies and communities and castes down the line, this objectification assumes social, communal, cultural, and personal connotations and angularities. The poetry that I write or others of my ilk write is in fact an attempt to put together a collage of these complexities.
You are a second-generation activist and writer who has consciously and instinctively deployed the medium of writing as a weapon of self-actualization as well as social cause. Do you think the issues and the society your father wrote about have undergone a positive change?
Whether or not the society has undergone a positive change depends on the location we are talking about. At the macro level, the caste system that my father wrote about does not exist 100% as it did during his time. But if you are living in a village or small town, then caste is a reality like it was. Also, there is another way by which caste has staged a comeback.
The economic concerns born out of globalization and ascendance of capitalism are accentuating the caste and communal identities, and people are coming together along caste lines to either hold on to their economic benefits or demand economic benefits. For instance, the Maratha caste mobilization for quota. Caste continues to operate at multiple levels. In the India of 2018, there are 564 villages where lower castes are not allowed to take water from public taps and public places, and they must not be seen in public wearing new clothes. A lower-caste couple in Uttar Pradesh had to fight for their wedding procession to pass through Thakur-dominated parts. And they are not even Dalit or Buddhist. They are a Hindu caste. A young Dalit was killed in Gujarat because he rode a horse. These are manifestations of caste.
Do you agree with the recent Supreme Court order that the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act is much abused?
There are ways to look at this Act, the context in which it was made and the very reasons for caste-based reservations. The Act was introduced because the SC/STs (Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes) were rightly acknowledged as the weaker communities deserving of protection. The reservations were enshrined in the Constitution because they were rightly thought to be well-deserved.
Sadly, the Supreme Court has apparently not situated its order and observations in this context. There is well-documented evidence that the Act is not used in the first place for the purposes it has been put in place. In 2016, of the total cases of atrocities against the SCs, 89.6% were pending settlement at various stages. This proportion was 87% for cases registered by the STs. This means the Act is not being used as effectively as it should be, so how does the question of misuse arise? Unfortunately, there is an ongoing infantilization of the SC/STs in which the Supreme Court has also perhaps unwittingly participated by observing that the SC and ST allow the Act to be abused and that they don’t know how to use it.
You have been a critic of the Congress regime too. What differentiates the BJP regime from the previous dispensation in terms of their respective approaches to Dalits?
There isn’t much of a difference in approach. But today’s social, cultural and political climate is way different from what it was 20 years back.
I have frequently criticized the Congress party and its politics from public platforms in the presence of Congress leaders. They would at least listen. In today’s climate, I am made to fear for myself, for my children, if I choose to speak my mind. When I returned my awards in 2016, it was a protest against this climate which, sadly, gets sanction from the very top. I, and many of my women friends, were branded Naxals even when we protested against the Khairlanji killings.
But today, in addition to being branded, one is directly attacked. There is definitely a very real and fearful climate that harbours ill-will against minorities, Dalits, women and even students who choose to think differently. What happened with Rohith Vemula or what is happening at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai represents an attempt to deny even education and upward mobility to the weaker sections.
How do you look at the politics prosecuted by parties formed in the name of Dalits and supposedly espousing the Dalit cause?
Some five years back, I was among those critics of established Dalit politics who would dismiss the big and small Dalit parties and splinter groups as corrupt parties co-opted either by the Congress or BJP. In the first place, I never had any hopes from political parties that claimed to represent only Dalits. Because parties which claim to represent only one particular caste or group or community tend to get stuck in the politics of identity. They become prisoners of their identities. Babasaheb Ambedkar never believed in this kind of politics.
But what is happening now gives people like me a lot of hope. The way a young politician like Jignesh Mevani (Gujarat MLA) is trying to base his politics on the coalition of Dalits, OBCs (Other Backward Classes), farmers, labourers and women, is a welcome change. There is hope even in the new course of politics that established leaders like Prakash Ambedkar are practising now.
People like Mevani and Ambedkar have identified the common enemy of Dalits, farmers, students, women, labourers, as being one, and they are fighting that enemy. What is most remarkable is that the theoretical and ideological exposition of the caste system that Babasaheb made in his Annihilation of Caste in 1936 has now been acknowledged and become part of the national discourse.
Wilson, himself a Dalit, has vehemently campaigned against the inhuman practice of manual scavenging. He has played a role in saving and helping rehabilitate 3 lakh manual scavengers. He comes from a Dalit family in Kolar who were involved in manual scavenging for generations. He is the national convenor of Safai Karmchari Andolan. He also got a Supreme Court judgment to his credit which directed all States and UTs to provide compensation to families of people who died cleaning sewers. He is a recipient of the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay award.
(Image Courtesy: Youth Ki Awaaz)
He was pivotal in getting the Kolar Gold Mines to demolish dry latrines which had to be cleaned by people from his community, including his father and brother. Speaking about the beginning of his journey of caste consciousness, he said, “For the first time, I understood that we are scavengers not because we are illiterate or poor but because we are born into a caste. I started relating all my personal experiences to this history of my people."
Know who was Bastar's real Mogli world famous "Cindu the Tiger Bye"
by Gondwana Express
Shakuntala Dushyant's son Bharat played with lions in childhood, just like this boy from Bastar played with lions. The boy's name was Chendroo. Cheduru the Tiger Bay, famously known as Chendro Puri, was not less than any Aju for the world. The famous 'Chhadaru Puri', popularly known as Bastar Mowgli, was famous in the world in the 60's. The interesting aspect of the life of Chendro was his friendship with Tiger, that too of the real forest. Friendships were such that both of them always lived together, eating, playing, sleeping together all together.
Chendru, who was called Real Mowgli of Bastar, had said goodbye to the world in 2013. Sixty years ago, Chenduru had drawn attention from around the world. People from France, Sweden, Britain and people from all corners of the world used to see a glimpse of only one, to capture one of their photographs in their camera to Bastar. Cheduru Mandavi of Maria tribe of Bastar became famous all over the world as Tiger Boy and Real Mowgli.
Chandaru was a resident of Narayanpur.
Cedaru Mandavi was a resident of Narangpur's Backyard Bengal. This boy from Muria tribe was very brave. Once in his childhood grandfather brought a lion cub from the forest. She named him Temba. Both of them had a strong friendship. Together they used to eat, walk and play together. The information about the friendship of these two people gradually spread to the whole world. Sweden's Oscar Winner film director Arne Saxdorf arrived in Bastar with the thought of making a film on Cheduru and with complete preparation.
This child was caught by the sight of Swedish director Arne Sucksdorff, who visited Buxar in Ghughharghasurrounded by dense forests . In the jungle, with the lions, the friendly friendship director was so worried that they did not stay. Then there was a film "The Jungle Saga" in which the lead roll was on Bastar's "Tiger Boy" Chendroi.
As soon as the film was released, Chendru had become a Hollywood star overnight
In 1957, the song 'N the Jungal Saga ( En djungelsaga )' was made in Swedish : The Flute and the Arrow , a Swedish film made on the country's recognition of Bastar abroad, along with his friend Tiger Friendship was shown about. He played the hero of this movie and stayed here and completed shooting in two years. This film made him famous all over the world. In this film, Ravi Shankar gave the music, Ravi Shankar was struggling to make his identity and at that time he was known as the musician of Chendroo.
Director Arne Saxdorf wanted to adopt Chadurdu
Cheduru wanted to adopt Arne Saksdorf, but due to his divorce from his wife Astrid Bergman Sucksdorff , it was not possible to do so. Astrid was a successful photographer as well as a writer. At the time of the shooting of the film, he shot several pictures of Chadru and wrote a book called ' Chendru: The Boy and the Tiger ' on the Chendro .
After that Chandur returned to India, then the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehruji advised to stop Chendro from Mumbai. But away from the life of the crowd and on the father's call, he returned to his home in Bastar.
In the absence of anonymity and living life
Chadrupu, who had become accustomed to living in glare glamor, remained in a deserted place in the village. Where their life was spent in the absence of absence. When the youth of Khedor's age came back to the village from the foreign country, then there was a ground truth in front of them. Over time, Chenduru went missing in the forest of Narayanpur and Bastar. When Chamduru returned from abroad, he was separated from the village for many years.
It was at one time that the world of anonymity was completely lost, which some journalists discovered in the 90s. Instead of working in the film, he got only two rupees for the day. In 2013, this anonymous hero died due to a long illness.
Chendro was very happy person
Like any other Muriya tribal, Chendru is very happy and will not care about many things. But in front of Chenduru, his past comes up, like a dream, perhaps he can not be freed.
According to Jairam Mandavi, son of Chenduru, if his father received financial help, then his condition might not have been so. Jairam says, "When Dad fell ill, a Japanese woman helped Rs 1.5 lakh. Apart from this, a minister from Chhattisgarh gave Rs 25 thousand rupees but before and after this nobody has asked us.
In memory of this brilliant glory of Bastar, the Chhattisgarh government has given a true tribute by making a memorial of Chendru in the jungle safari of Raipur.
Dalit auto-rickshaw driver battling CPM-led caste oppression in Kerala
Chitralekha, born into a Dalit family, raised eyebrows when she married Srishkant, a higher caste Thiyya man, and decided to earn her living by driving an auto-rickshaw in Payyannur town of Kannur district
The CPM-led Left government in Kerala, which came into power in 2016, will particularly be noted for two things: First is the constant criticism over political violence between the CPM and RSS, and the subsequent political deliberation by the BJP's central leadership. And secondly, repeated instances of caste-based discrimination in the state.
Instances of the caste-based violence and discrimination have surfaced from many different parts of the state. An inter-caste marriage, the subsequent unrest in Palakkad district's Ambedkar Colony, and the custodial torture of a Dalit teen leading to his suicide in Thrissur district are some of the recent examples.
These stories hit the news media consumed by the middle class before suffering a slow death and leaving the caste reality behind. Meanwhile, government and political parties move ahead with their development agendas.
There, however, is one woman, Chitralekha, who has dared the CPM and fought relentlessly for 14 years to assert her dignity and seek justice. Chitralekha's story bares the casteist and sexist face of the so-called progressive party and state. She has made headlines in the national media for her indomitable struggle against the CPM. Even when the media and authorities turned her down after the initial curiosity fizzled, she continued her struggle unrelentingly. When she staged a 47-day sit-in protest in front of the secretariat in the state capital, the banner read 'Against the casteist attacks of CPM'.
Chitralekha. Firstpost/Akhil Vasudevan
Chitralekha, born into a Dalit family, raised eyebrows when she married Srishkant, a higher caste Thiyya man. In 2004, she decided to earn her living by driving an auto-rickshaw in Payyannur town of Kannur district. Her decision aggravated the intolerance among the male auto drivers, many of whom hail from the upper castes. Chitralekha and her family suffered multiple physical attacks by the male auto-drivers in the region who are part of the CITU, the trade union outfit belonging to the CPM.
She survived a murder attack, her auto was set on fire, and her brother-in-law was slashed while trying to save her husband from an attack. The CPM continued to dismiss her story as a local issue and never condemned the violence against her, and never even moved to keep its local cadre under control.
After these attacks against her continued for over a decade, Chitralekha went on a 122-day protest in 2014 in front of the district collectorate seeking protection. The Congress government of Oommen Chandy had assured her of support and rehabilitation in another town within the district. The Chandy government also promised her land and financial assistance to build a house on it.
But after the CPM regained power in 2016, the party took out a rally against her, and even denied the financial assistance promised to her by the previous government and was put on hold by bureaucrats. The CPM formed a 'Landless Homeless Action Committee' against Chitralekha, claiming the Congress government sanctioned land illegally. They wanted the land allocated to her to be redistributed among other landless Dalits.
According to the Rajamanikyam Report, about 5 lakh acres of land is held illegally by corporates in Kerala's Munnar hills. But the CPM has never taken out a rally like this against them, never demanded this land be confiscated and be redistributed among the state's plantation workers, landless Dalits and tribals.
"They couldn't afford to have me in their space, since I am a Dalit woman," says Chitralekha.
But while the party's failure to address this issue is of concern, it's not surprising. It should be noted that the party doesn't consider it as a petty fight between auto drivers. In 2010, a fact-finding team of academicians and lawyers met Chitralekha to release a report, but the party "unofficially" denied them permission. The team later presented the report in the neighbouring district of Kozhikode.
Though the CPM has projected itself as a champion of the anti-caste struggle in the state and in different university campuses across India, it has ignored narratives of caste discrimination where party members or leaders are involved.
Several Left governments in the state have made repeated attempts to cover their inability to tackle the caste reality. They even launched a state-wide celebration of the centenary anniversary of the 'nammuku jathiyilla' (I have no caste) proclamation made by Sree Narayana Guru. But given the record of being perpetrators in many caste-based violence cases, these futile efforts only protrude the party's double standards.
For many from the party intelligentsia, Chitralekha's issue is a local one, which can be settled if party leaders give a strict warning to their cadre in Kannur. But Chitralekha thinks otherwise. "They might be able to stop the attacks. If the party leaders tell the cadre to put an end to this, it may end. But caste is a different condition altogether. They cannot end the condition which is created due to caste," she rued.
The CPM has denied Chitralekha's allegations and the party isn't involved in the case at all. TV Rajesh, the MLA from Kalyassery, said, "I understand that she had some issues with her neighbours and a few others in the region, but the CPM is not involved in the case. I think there are people conspiring against the party and trying to tarnish its name. But CPM is a party which stands for the rights of all humans, and we stand with everyone including Chitralekha."
Rajesh also said he is unaware of the party withdrawing any financial assistance made to Chitralekha by the previous government.
The CPM and its allies are spearheading the fight against BJP's fascist politics in the country, and the Pinarayi Vijayan government makes national headlines for its daring moves against the BJP. But for Chitralekha, the CPM is fascist in its own right. "Without understanding that caste violence is the highest form of fascism in the Indian context, what anti-fascist unity are they going to do.
The 39-year-old lady told Twocirles.net that she saw CPI (M) worker Abhilash damaging her auto rickshaw but he ran away by the time she came of the house at Edat in Payyannur.
“I saw Abhilash and two others when I looked through window,” she alleged. Chitralekha became the target of local CPI (M) leadership as she married a man belonging to Thiyya caste, which claims the higher ranking in the Hindu caste system. “Ever since I began to work as an auto rickshaw driver to earn my food in 2004, I have been facing threats from the CPI (M) activists. When I arrived in an auto rickshaw-stand affiliated to the CITU (the CPI (M) affiliated trade union), I was welcomed by caste slurs.
They asked me ‘what the hell is a Pulaya lady is doing with our auto rickshaw stand?’
Pulaya caste members were the slaves of feudal landlords in Malabar.
The auto rickshaw, according to Chitralekha, needed repair of Rs. 20,000 as its seat and cover were completely torn.
Payyannur police confirmed that Chithralekha had filed a complaint, saying her vehicle had been damaged. “The roof and seat of the vehicle had been damaged with blade,” the police said
After staging protests in front of the Kannur collectorate and the state secretariat for the last few years, the government recently allocated her five cent land at Kattambally in order to relocate her from Edat owing to repeated attacks. The land was given following 122 days dharna in front of Kannur collectorate and 20 days protest in front of the Secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram. On March 4, she was visiting her house at Edat to collect documents for one of the several cases in court, which had been filed during these years due to the harassment.
“They were not able accept a woman auto driver, who is a Dalit woman, was doing the same job they do. Since then, they have been torturing me. In December, 2005 they burned my auto rickshaw. Still, they are taking up efforts to lower my morale by describing me as a woman, who drinks and doesn’t know how to behave,” she added.
However, the latest attack is unlikely to dent her confidence: “I am not ready to bow my head and continue to fight back,” she said.
Meanwhile, the continuing assault on the Dalit lady has drawn the ire of the activists and Dalit organisations in Kerala.
“Chithralekha’s case has brought the attitude of CPI (M), which claims to be the protectors of Dalits, to the light. The attacks could be easily brought to an end if the party leaders interfere in the issue. But, despite repeated pleas and protests the party leadership is turning a blind eye towards her woes,” said Dalit activist AS Ajith Kumar.
However, Chithralekha is pinning hope on the district administration as she has given a detailed complaint to the district collector P Balakiran seeking steps to end the assault on her.
DALIT WOMEN FIGHT
2015 NORTH AMERICAN TOUR
THE DALIT WOMEN'S SELF-RESPECT MARCH/DALIT MAHILA SWABIHMAAN YATRA IS THE LARGEST HISTORIC CHALLENGE TO CASTE-BASED SEXUAL VIOLENCE IN INDIAN HISTORY.
THE BRAINCHILD OF THE ALL INDIA DALIT WOMEN'S RIGHTS FORUM/ALL INDIA DALIT MAHILA ADHIKAAR MANCH, SURVIVORS AND ACTIVISTS TOOK TO MARCHING ACROSS INDIA TO CALL OUT THE SYSTEMIC FAILURE OF THE INDIAN GOVERNMENT TO PROTECT DALIT WOMEN AND THEIR FAMILIES.
THIS MARCH NOW COMES TO NORTH AMERICA. OUR GOAL IS TO BREAK THE SILENCE ON CASTE APARTHEID AND CASTE RAPE WHILE ALSO STANDING SHOULDER TO SHOULDER WITH OTHER WOMEN BREAKING THE SILENCE ON STATE VIOLENCE ALL ACROSS THE US.
WE WILL HAVE MANY STRATEGIES SO CHECK BACK ON THIS PAGE OFTEN.
WE ALSO ENCOURAGE YOU TO CHECK OUT OUR GALLERY OF ART AND PHOTOGRAPHY THAT IS GROWING THROUGH OUR TOUR. IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO SUBMIT ART PLEASE CONTACT US AT DALITWOMENFIGHT@GMAIL.COM.
Dev Dass Goswami
Doing God's Work: This Haryana Man Has Been Burying Unclaimed Bodies & Rescuing The Needy For 35 Yrs
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
1940 (age 80–81)
Occupation social worker, activist
Known for tribal upliftment
Daya Bai (born Mercy Mathew) is an Indian social activist from Kerala, working among the tribals of central India. She lives in Barul village of Chhindwara district in Madhya Pradesh.
Mercy Mathew, born in 1940, hails from a prosperous Christian family in Pala, Kerala. She had a happy childhood with a strong faith in God.
She left Pala at the age of 16 to become a nun, and later gave up her habit, to work for the tribal population in the midlands of India. She has been delivering inspirational speeches, holding satyagrahas and campaigns to press local authorities to open schools and empower neglected villages in the interior and tribal Madhya Pradesh. She was associated with Narmada Bachao Andolan and the Chengara agitation, apart from her solo struggles representing the forest dwellers and villagers in Bihar, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and West Bengal. She also lent her services to the common folk in Bangladesh during the war there. Daya Bai, who practises the theology of liberation, settled down among the Gonds of Chhindwara district in Madhya Pradesh. She set up a school in the Barul village. Daya Bai teaches each village she visits how to take care of itself and then moves on to the next village.
She started the Swayam Sahayatha Group in the late 90s, as a tool for the eradication of poverty. This earned her the wrath of the middlemen, the money lenders and village chief. She asked female officers in the bank to use their position for the uplift of the downtrodden and the distressed poor.
Daya Bai received the Vanitha Woman of the Year award in 2007. She was awarded with the Good Samaritan National Award (instituted by the Kottayam Social Service Society and Agape Movement, Chicago) in January 2012.
Ottayal or 'One Person,' is an hour-long documentary on Daya Bai by Shiny Jacob Benjamin. Nandita Das, the film personality, wrote a tribute to her in 2005, as the one inspiration of her life.
Dalit odd Fighers
Born in Ghadkhauli village, Sahranpur, Uttar Pradesh, Chandrashekhar Azad is known to have come to prominence after he put up a board outside his village “The Great Chamars of Ghadkhauli Welcome you”.
(Image Courtesy: Stars Unfolded)
He is a law graduate and he along with Vinay Ratan Singh co-founded the Bhim Army or the Bhim Army Ekta Mission to fight for the development and upliftment of Dalits and other marginalized sections.
Bhim Army is an unregistered organization and claims to have over 40,000 members across 7 states. It also runs around 300 schools. He was arrested in 2017 for fanning protest by Dalit Community in Saharanpur and was released more than a year later. He was booked under the National Security Act.
He was recently granted bail by a Delhi Court recognising his right to protest as a constitutional right as he was part of anti-CAA protest at Jama Masjid in Delhi. Even when the police were trying to arrest him, he had managed to give them a slip and had emerged in another protest.
Helen Lepcha alias Sabitri Devi
Born in the year 1902, hailing from a village called Sangmoo near Namchi in South Sikkim, but residing in the then British-occupied Kurseong, this fierce freedom fighter was inspired by Gandhi’s Charkha Movement which had gained momentum at that point in time. Helen Lepcha or better known as Sabitri Devi partook in the relief measures that were carried out in Bihar in the year 1920 as the state had confronted massive floods that affected the people from lower echelons of the society. Impressed by her work, Gandhi invited her to his Sabarmati Ashram. She was also renamed as “Sabitri Devi” by Gandhi.
Image Source: Himal News
The Britishers found her dedicated anti-colonial stance and activities as notorious and they had also issued a warrant in her name. She was hounded by the British Police officials and was one of the most-wanted congress leaders. Once she was also open fired at; fortunately, she escaped unhurt. She built a strong rapport with other leaders like Sarojini Naidu, Jawaharlal Nehru, Morarji Desai and worked closely with them for India’s independence.
She also played a significant role in the Non-Cooperation Movement, where she led a rally of thousands of labourers in Kolkata, beside eminent nationalist leaders like Gandhi, Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad, Chittaranjan Das, to name a few. She also mobilised people from in and around Kurseong during the Non-Cooperation Movement by starting door-to-door campaigns against foreign goods, for which she was later imprisoned by the Britishers.
Along with battling the British rule for India’s independence, she also immersed herself in social activism. She was the chairperson of various associations in Kurseong like the Sherpa Association, Nagar Congress, Anjuman Islamia and the Lepcha Association. Because of her dedication to the collective betterment of the society, the Tribal Welfare Department, Government of West Bengal also honoured and recognised her contributions by conferring on her “Reward to Tribal Headman of the District”.
Helen Lepcha alias Sabitri Devi (born 1902) was one of the most prominent freedom fighters from the hills of Darjeeling. Originally a resident of Kurseong, Dist. Darjeeling, she traced her lineage to Sikkim, which honours her as their very own. Around 1917, when a Bengali man has come to propagate Gandhi’s Charkha Movement, Helen, a fresh school-dropout, resonated deeply with his speech. She was so inspired that she took off to Calcutta in 1918, to get enrolled in the Charkha school of the granddaughter of Pt. Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar. A skilled learner, she soon got the opportunity to be a representative of the school in the National level Khadi and Charkha Exhibition in Muzzafarpur in Bihar.
As history shows, many men from this northern terrain have fought valiantly, especially for the independence of the nation-state they were desperate to belong to. But it never quite acknowledges the bravery of the martial hill women, who tried to make giant gestures not only for the freedom of the country but also for womankind.
When volunteering for the Bihar floods in 1920, Helen was summoned by Gandhi, who had heard about her selfless goodwill towards the unfortunate, to Safidat’s house. Impressed by her dedication to the cause, Gandhi invited her to Sabarmati Ashram, and it was there that Sabitri Devi was born. After her rechristening, she acted as a Congress leader looking after certain parts of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh like Patna, Danapur, Bakipur, Muzzafarpur, and Jharia coalfields and gained immense popularity among the netizens. The British were wary about this, as they staled her every move. With an anti-British stance and a nationalist spirit, she attended almost every event which tried to topple Britannia’s hold on India, and in this process, she is said to have come in close contact with eminent political personalities such as Sarojini Naidu, Jawaharlal Nehru, Moraji Desai and the like.
With the tricolour in hand, Sabitri had led a rally of labourers of Jharia in 1921 as a part of the Non-Cooperation Movement. She carried this spirit back home when having to tend to her mother, as she gathered volunteers to start a campaign against foreign goods in Siliguri. As bonfires were lit with these goods as their fodder, despite the section 144 imposed, the nationalistic fire in their hearts burned brighter leading to rallies, till they were taken into custody. An anti-government case was opened against her, leading to 3-month imprisonment and a further house arrest, till she met with Gandhi in 1925. Rumour has it, she aided Subash Chandra Bose to escape from India. With many titles and awards given to her during her lifetime, Sabitri Devi was revered for the brave woman she was.
Putalimaya Devi Poddar
A Gorkha woman, born on 14th January, 1920, in Kurseong, Putalimaya Devi Poddar was renowned within her community for fighting both against the imperial and social order. She was barely 14-15 years of age when she wanted to join the Congress Party to contribute in the freedom struggle against the Britishers. Later when Kurseong had established an office for the Congress Committee in 1936, the highly patriotic Putalimaya finally was able to concretise her ambition of becoming a freedom fighter, despite being repeatedly discouraged by her father. However, her fight and activism did not end there. She also started a Harijan Samaj in Kurseong which dealt with mobilising Dalits and Shudras to grow interested in and receive an education. She also founded a women’s organisation which motivated girls to become patriotic leaders for the community and invoke nationalist sentiments to fight the colonial regime.
Putalimaya Devi Poddar
The eldest daughter of Manbahadur Tamang, Putalimaya Devi Poddar (born 1920) was another daughter of the hills who participated in the nationalist struggle. When 14-15, she came across a man, Saryu Prasad Poddar, adorned with Khaddar clothing in Kurseong. With feelings of patriotism stirring in her soul, she met Saryu Prasad and expressed her desire to participate in the freedom struggle to be declined and asked to return to school. Even as a schoolgirl, she actively tried to do her part by constantly keeping in touch with the Congressmen and collecting information about movements around the country.
Realising the need for women to equally be part of the political arena, she made them messengers of patriotism to inspire the domestic sphere they inhabited, infecting the entire community with fervent bouts of nationalism. With this objective, she formed a Mahila Samiti/Women’s organisation that produced Khadi clothes, which served as symbols of the movement.
When in 1936 the Congress Branch was finally established in Kurseong with the help of native patriots, among whom was the above mentioned Sabitri Devi, Putalimaya finally became a member of the party. She further started a Harijan Samaj (Committee) in Kurseong, inspiring them to take an education and making this possible by starting a school to do so. Realising the need for women to equally be part of the political arena, she made them messengers of patriotism to inspire the domestic sphere they inhabited, infecting the entire community with fervent bouts of nationalism. With this objective, she formed a Mahila Samiti/Women’s organisation that produced Khadi clothes, which served as symbols of the movement.
As the common folk increasingly engaged themselves in the support of these organisations, the members started openly preaching about nationalist sentiments, often keeping a picture of Gandhi as a shrine. Having defied a warning from the police earlier, Putalimaya in 1942 organised a massive procession with other Congress members, to be eventually arrested. Although her health deteriorated, she went against her parent’s wishes to continue with her active role in the movement. Even after independence, she continued to work as a social activist and a member of the congress party. Popularly called “Mataji‟, she was respected by all, especially the downtrodden to whom she dedicated her very own life. She rightfully deserved the titles, honours and awards bestowed upon her.
Image Source: Pinterest
Poddar was repeatedly sent warnings or called to the Police Station by the British officials during this period. However, this did not deter her from organising and leading the freedom movement from Kurseong, as well as its neighbouring areas of Darjeeling and Kalimpong. At the same time, when in Bombay, on 8th August 1942 a call for Swaraj was evoked, later leading to the arrest of prominent nationalist leaders, in Kurseong, a few days later, organised a huge Jan Sabha which led to her arrest by the British Police officials.
Even after the Independence of India, Putalimaya Devi continued her activism as a Samaj Sevika. She was awarded the name “Swatantrata Senani” and “Tamra Patra” by the then Government of India. Common people addressed her as “mataji” as she continued working as the President of Mahukuma Congress Committee of Kurseong and Vice-President of Darjeeling Zilla Committee. She breathed her last on 1st December 1984.
At the entrance of the bus stand in Cuddalore district’s Kattumannargudi there is a bust, one might not have encountered that bust anywhere in Tamil Nadu as it does not carry any traces of identity of a familiar figure from the state. The name board below the bust says that he is Reddiyur Pandian, beyond that not only his name but why he has been memorialized in the form of a bust is something even the politically conscious few could reason. Known as Pandian, he is a Dalit who fought against the prevailing practice of imposing menial jobs on Dalits and died during the protest on August, 15, 1985.
Bust of Reddiyur Pandian who died in police firing following a protest by Dalits who registered their dissent against the imposition of menial work to them.
Our caste system, which is based on birth, apportioned occupational categories and spatial locations for different castes and maintains the system. Denying occupational mobility for castes and their right to choose work, the system discriminates people by assigning jobs according to their particular location within the caste system thus maintaining a rigid hierarchy from top to bottom of the social ladder. The castes lower down the order were assigned to do menial jobs mostly unhygienic in nature and service oriented. So to move away against the assigned occupational order towards caste-neutral jobs or to gain education formed the basis of anti-caste efforts. As the possibility towards such mobility was found only in modernity, the Dalit stalwarts were practicing and propagating a modernist reformative discourse. In the case of Tamil Nadu, the struggles against the ‘imposition of menial work’ happened at different regions both on a small scale and large level. These protests, which have a century long history, were not archived and recorded properly. However, Kattumannargudi has recorded it by erecting a symbol in the form of a bust to recall and reimagine those struggles.
Today’s Cuddalore district included old South Arcot district provides us a lot of references on various forms of protests between 1946 and 2000 against the beating of parai drum which is made out of cow hide and is also used mostly during funeral processions. Likewise refusing to remove the carcass of dead cattle and to dig graves for the dead caste Hindus were resisted by Dalits through various forms of protests in the Northern districts of Tamil Nadu. Most of these protests happened at the regional level and it never gained emphasis as a state level protest or a slogan and it did not receive such attention also. These protests were also spontaneous and were not led by any prominent leader.
The veteran Congress leader L.Elayaperumal in the year 1962 passed a resolution in Kattumannargudi circle that no one from the region should engage in parai drumming and especially not for members of other castes. It is how Elayaperumal had created awareness about restraining from doing menial work in this area. And in the year 1985 August 15 there was a fire-walking ceremony in the local village temple. The local Dalits had refused to beat the parai drum for the festival so the caste Hindus had hired drummers from outside the district. However, the Dalits of the village refused to the beating of parai drums in total during the festival. So there was uneasy calm in the village and police force was deployed in the region. Dalits from 16 villages approached towards the temple, police prevented them and resorted to lathicharge and threw teargas shells. Finally the police opened firing in which ten Dalits were grievously injured and one Dalit youth Pandian was killed. There was no damage either to the police or to the caste Hindus. The death of Pandian intensified the struggles and this resulted in almost a complete abolishment of beating of the parai drum in the region.
People memorialized the sacrifice of Pandiyan in different ways; a flagpole was erected in honour of his martyrdom at Poovizhundhanallur, which is on the southern side of Northern River the same place where he was shot dead and a bust and flagpole was also erected at Kattumannargudi. A ballad lyric was penned imagining how Pandian’s mother Chinnaponnu would sing grieving the loss of his son, the lyric was penned by Veerananallur Murugandam and was sung on stages during village festivals, also sung as a dirge and also as a folk song during the transplanting at farms in villages. This is how the subaltern people keep Pandian’s memory alive. The bust was designed without the help of a photographic image, as they could not find one, talking about how it was done one of my interlocutors said, “ We see this image as our own visual depiction of Pandian’s struggles and sacrifice rather than an authentic portrayal of his real looks.”
Generally when we speak about Dalit struggles like most cases they become individual-centred based on either their ideologies or their actions. When we talk about ‘martyrs’ or ‘revolutionaries’ it is larger idioms that come to our minds. In many cases a small level of sacrifice and struggle too gets blown out of proportion with the idea to symbolize or create a leader out of the figure. Though there is no need to conceptualise these struggles avoiding the individuals and their contributions but we have to see that it is the traditional ‘hero in history’ figure which figments our imagination. People who are oppressed by caste somewhere in their lives are resisting either directly or indirectly the caste system or the disgrace it brings to them. Given this condition it leads to a position where an individual has to remain either as opposing caste and the disgrace it brings or to accept it and live. The person who opposes it could be someone who is not even prepared how to handle it or does not have even thought about it. But he has to face the problems that arise out of such system. The three cases explained above indicate us that the activists did not possess any strong ideological foundations or had a history of affiliation towards any movement. Vanjinagaram Kandan had no political background and was just an admirer of MG Ramachandran (the Matinee idol who later entered politics to become the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu). Reddiyur Pandian who had lost his father was working as a daily wage labourer and there were no records or evidences, which indicate his political activities. Though Elayaperumal’s intervention had created awareness among Dalits in Cuddalore to restrain from involving in menial work but there is no record to show what sort of influence it had on Pandian’s perceptions about caste. But his involvement in the struggles indicate that he carried a sense of indignation against caste, this provides us an idea that to be an anti-caste person there is no need for large ideological underpinnings but the fact that the lived experience as a member of oppressed caste was enough.
Starting from villages to towns to cities, caste discrimination is abounded and the experiences one gains out of these struggles are enormous. A lot of such struggles never gain the attention of media and many were hidden without attaching any news-value to such and remain as local histories. The political parties or the government also failed to recognize such struggles and experiences to promote social justice. Going beyond all this these struggles do not form part of “histories” in the broader categorical sense.
How caste functions in accordance to regional and local conditions the struggles to resist such existing conditions also get shaped accordingly. These histories of resistance in each region can be compiled based on its local significance. The three struggles discussed above happened during different time periods, at different places, carrying different experiences. These struggles are neglected not only by historians but also by political parties, but the people of the locality remember them in ways known to them and it is how we can see that these struggles were kept alive through ballads, statue and hero stone. We can also see that the support for these acts of memorialization from social movements is also provisional. In this essay struggles of a particular sect among the Dalits were only discussed, if an effort is undertaken to collect all the local and regional records of such histories of struggles we can compile a volume on local histories of anti-caste struggles.
Fighting for her rights
Dalit women of Moinabad Mandal, however, receive little success in securing work under MGNREGA. Ratna Ma says her demands for work under MGNREGA to Mandal officials have so far been unanswered. She explains the triple discrimination she experienced: “I am a single widowed woman, on top of that, I am a Dalit, so it is always difficult to find work – no one wants to employ you”.
Unlike many others, Ratna Ma possesses half an acre of land where she plants paddy and grows flowers. Apart from tending to her small landholding, she works for other landowners for a payment of 60 rupees per day. Under MGNREGA, Ratna Ma will be entitled to a minimum wage of Rs. 100. Ratna Ma says she has been given a job card which entitles her to work under the scheme but no work has come her way.
Ratna Ma has attended workshops held by DSS on three occasions in the past one year. “It was the first time Dalit women had come together to discuss important issues, ” says Ranta Ma, as she attended the Moinabad Mandal Development Office to demand work under MGNREGA with Bina, a staff member of DSS.
Ratna Ma has two sons, a 23 and 20 year old, who are also dependent on her. “It’s frustrating when the next generation also have to sit idle. Caste is the main obstacle for me and my sons not getting work under MGNREGA,” she states angrily.
Ratna Ma says “so far nothing has been solved”. Yet, Ratna Ma is prepared to go to any level to fight for her rights. “I am prepared to go to the Chief Minister. Under MGNREGA, I could work at the Angan Wadi centres, look after children or help in serving midday meals to school children. I can also be paid to work on my small landholding which will be eligible as ‘work’ under MGNREGA.”
The event ended on a high note echoing the determination of women like Ratna Ma.
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An insight into Lamani Community
Mother Tongue: Lamani, Marathi
Awards: Jeevan Gaurav Puraskar-2007, Uddhovrao Yuva Puraskar-2009
Ranjeeta was born in 27/11/1984. Originally Ranjeeta is a native of Osmanabad. Her father in Ex-military person. She was born in Assam as at that time her father was deputed in Assam. There are eight members in Rajeetas family including her parents, three sisters & two brothers .her father was patriarchal so they give all opportunities to the sons and he looked after the needs of the son’s and neglected the daughters.
Ranjitas mother is a very kind hearted lady & has great affection for her daughter and supported to daughter .But Ranjitas father is an orthodox person & behaves in the same manner. They are Lamaan by caste & as per tradition & rituals of their caste; her 3 sister got married at an early age. Their education came to an end with their marriage but their brothers were allowed to continue their education. There was discrimination not only with regard to education, but also other things.
They lived in ‘Tanda’ in osmanabad. ‘Tanda’ means ‘people of Lamaan families stay in group of 10-15 families outside the village’.
Since childhood Ranjeeta was a girl with daring & determination .Her primary education up to 4th standard to place in the school in ‘Tanda’ & the passed in merit. The educational facility in ‘Tanda’ School is only up to the 4th Standard so after that student from Lamaan caste has to go to school in the village for further education.
Primary school on ‘Tanda’ in meant only for boys and girls in the ‘Tanda’ because of this there was no difference of caste or teasing related to caste. Ranjeeta never experienced this difference. When Ranjeeta joined village school in the 5th standard then she faced this difference on the basis of caste, students of Maratha caste used to tease the Lamani Students based on caste & even teachers would make them sit on last benches only because they belong to the ‘Tanda’. But she never liked this practice hence; she was demanding and never sat on the last bench.
She was a leader in the school from 5th to 10thStandard. This was not tolerated by one of the teacher & he abused her by using un-parliamentary words, beat her & also threatened her for being leader of the class. Instead of getting frightened of this incidence, Ranjeeta went straight to the principle & told him the details of the incidence. Thereafter no teacher dared to scold Ranjeeta.
Ranjeeta use to take active part in social and sports events of the school. She proved meritorious in this too. It was very good period for her from 5th to 10th standard. She also received championship award for her overall performance during this period.
People in ‘Tanda’ were of same opinion that as per custom of Lamaan caste, girls should not get higher education .Her father also denied for her higher studies. But Ranjeeta was very firm on her stand & her mother also convinced her father. She decided to join science branch but there also because of strong opposition from her father she took admission in Shri Krishna College, for commerce in 11th standard. Unfortunately she failed in English hence she suffered from lot of depression & tension. But she consents herself saying that “failure in the first step to success”. I cannot lose my heart as I wish to do lot many things for my caste. Then after she again appeared for examination & got through. She already had plans in her mind about future. She used to love teaching small children of the ‘Tanda’. She used to give informal education to these children.
One day she realized that if, she wish to continue teaching skills. By doing D.Ed, my teaching skill may be developed, so with this intension she decided to join D.Ed. Ranjeetas brother also D.Ed & for his admission as well as for getting job, her father gave donation. Ranjeeta was aware of this & she vowed that she will not give donation for getting admission for D.Ed fortunately she stood in merit list of women’s college of education for which she did not paid any donation & in due course she completed her D.Ed.
Education of girls in ‘Tanda’ use to stop as soon as they attain puberty & they also get married at an early age of puberty. Almost 90% of the girls in ‘Tanda’ get married before they became mature by age. Only Ranjeeta could learn because of her determination & daring. People from her ‘Tanda,’ use to scold & pass comments at her father. They also instigate him to get her marry & what is the use of educating her? Her father was also of same opinion. But her mother contributed lot for her education & always gave every support to Ranjeeta. As days passed, her father’s attitude changed & he also started co-operating her.
Right from childhood, Ranjeeta experienced inhuman treatment not only in family because of being girl but in society also as a girl from Lamaan caste. In her worst condition of her cast & she also realize that she must do something for her own people.
Actually she started thinking on this when she was in 11th standard. Ranjeeta mother was member of self of group which running by ‘Vikas Sanstha’. She was aware of problem faced by women’s. Ranjeeta also started working for this organization as a voluntary. Ranjeeta likes to work with children & she used to give informal education to them at the same time Lamaan language is used maximum on ‘Tanda’ & therefore most of the children don’t have knowledge of Marathi language so she used to teach them Marathi also.
Therefore working with them she realizes that they are deprived of basic needs & also schooling material. So she decided to raise funds for this. She started the collected fund from Doctor, Engineers, teachers and businessmen in Osmanabad, she was collected in terms of the money and cloth for helping the children. Then after she was not satisfied about only collected fund and fulfilling the needs of children hence she decide to opening the orphanage for children and this idea she discuss with ‘Vikas Sanstha’ president . He agreed to this idea.
After this she took help of Balaji, Prem, and Babita for collected the fund for started the orphanage. After this they started in the year 1995.After sometime Ranjeeta left town for her D.Ed studies resulting in loosing contact with orphanage got financial aid and they forgot people who put initial efforts & drove them out.
After this incidence Ranjeeta, Balaji, prem, decided to work on their own instead of working under someone else. So they made foundation of ‘Samarthya Sanstha’ in this year 2008.
By this time Ranjeeta was force to get married by her family members. Ranjeeta had already decided that she will marry a boy from other caste. Because she knew that if she married a Lamaan boy then she will have to work as a teacher hence she was not agree. While working for organization she used to attend many workshops. In such a workshop she met Mr.Rajendra Jadhav, who proposed her for married. Mr Rajendra was also working as social worker. Both decided to marry but Ranjendra is belonging to ‘kaikadi’ caste while Ranjeeta is belonging to ‘Lamaani’. So it was difficult to agree their family members for this marriage. They spend entire year to convince their family members. At least they married in satara on 29th may ,2009. Rajendra help to Ranjeeta for their working.
Now Ranjeeta started working with people from Laman , Vadar, Mahar Lamaan, Mahar mang & Muslim. She was decided to work on breaking difference based on caste and humiliation on the some. At the same time she decided to fights for stopping inhuman treatment & to give rights to people of backward class to stop difference by gender & to give equal rights for living to male and female .she also wanted to give equality in education to children from backward class.
Ranjeeta and her team is working with women and children and young generation. As on date they have formed 100 self help group from 45 Tanda and help them to get loan from banks to open the business like glossary shop, floor mill, Tailoring shop, Bag manufacturing, animal husbandry.ect.
Youth from Lamaani community was not getting proper guidance. So considering them as a major link or cause to improve community, they started different type’s education for this youth. They also started library on ‘Tanda’ for youth. Special programme are arranged to bring awareness of girl education. They have found changed in certain things after started working in community, such as now female taking education up to collage level. Majority women and families taking borrow the money from lenders on the interest. But after formation self help group women saving the money hence this is helpful for crisis situation. In past, women were not allowed to be member of ‘Panchayat’ and youth use to remain away from this. But now women are part of ‘Panchayat’ and younger generation is also taking active part.
In 2007, Ranjeeta was appointed as members of ‘Tanta mukta police samiti” for resolve the common problem of community in police station. And mostly they solve the women’s problem in different area. As per as women problem are concerned, Ranjeeta thinks that through the problems of ordinary women are solved problems of ‘Dalit’. Women will continue as they are not educating. As also, as long as politics bases on castes in there women from community will remain as it is.
The challenges yet to overcome:
To start resource centre for youth and give them training for developments of this community youth.
To sale/ market product prepared by women from self help group for empowerment.
To prohibited the child marriage this community.
To bring awareness of family planning
To increase the no of girls going to school & also to help them for higher education.
To reduce the abortion rate in this community.
Ganaur is a small city in the Sonipat district of the state of Haryana, and is located 62 km north of New Delhi. In the city, while others enjoyed their lives in different ways, 60-year-old Dev Dass Goswami dedicated 35 years of his life to the welfare of the needy. This might sound ordinary, might sound like this is what several NGOs across the country do, but no, Goswami’s story is one of a kind.
Goswami’s father served in the army in the year 1925, and as a kid, as Goswami saw the poor and the needy on the streets, he wished to do something for them when he grew up. The beginning of the journey “In the year 1978, I left my home. I wanted to become a driver and my father was not very happy about it. So I left my home and began driving a truck. The transport agency I worked for had many other drivers, and what I noticed was, on the highways, several times, the drivers would hit dogs and other animals that came in front of the vehicles. What was harrowing for me was that the drivers never stopped to help them. They would just leave the animals dead, injured or barely alive,” Goswami said in a conversation with The Logical Indian. Extremely disturbed by what he saw, Goswami informed about this to the head of the drivers. “Guruji, they do not even help the dogs. How can they leave them like that? This is inhuman,” he told the head.
In return, he was beaten black and blue. “From that day onwards, I made up my mind to bury any dead animal that came my way as I drove. I would keep a spade and other tools that helped in digging the grave, and on the highways, no matter how many dead animals I found, I buried them with my own hands. I could never be like the rest of them,” he said. Goswami says he lives to serve the needy Goswami kept feeling that something was missing from his life, and he wanted to do something out of it. Unlike many others, who would probably want to become an engineer or a doctor, Goswami’s ambition was a little different. He had only managed to pass class VIII. He wanted to help. He wanted to help people, animals and anybody who needed help, and that is exactly what he dedicated his life to. Helping the needy “When I drove the truck on different roads, I would come across several homeless people. They did not have clothes, did not have food to eat, and they did not have an identity. It broke my heart to leave them like that,” he said. After a few years, Goswami came back to the home he had left, and with his mother’s support, he would bring homeless people to his house and keep them, bathe them, feed them and give them a life. “Ever since I left the transport service, I have been helping people in every way I could. My wife, my children and my mother have been my pillars of strength,” Goswami said. Goswami began his journey to perform the last rites of the unclaimed dead. By this time, he had created several tents where he kept the homeless people he helped, and many of them would be sick. When they died, he and his wife took the charge to perform their last rites. Not only these people, but those who knew him would call him when someone died, and he would happily extend a helping hand.
Goswami and his wife carry unclaimed bodies on their shoulders and perform their last rites “There were people around me and my wife who said we had lost our sanity, especially because in a world where people do not hesitate to discriminate others on the basis of their religion, we, being Hindus, carried the bodies of Muslims on our shoulders. I have never believed in discrimination but in humanity. I have always wanted to help people in general, no matter which caste, creed or religion they belonged to. My wife, Tara, was the first woman in the locality to have carried dead bodies on her shoulders, including those of Muslims,” he said. Besides doing his best to help people, there are several street dogs he feeds every day. To those people who complain about the dogs littering their places, he has one thing to say: keep a bowl of water and a little food at your doorstep, because that is all they want.
Years of selfless service “Under a flyover near Tihar Jail in Delhi, I had built a home for the homeless people I help. However, the government asked me to move the people elsewhere for a while, after which they said they would provide a home. But they never did. I have never received any help from the government, but there are around 20 to 25 people, some even from abroad, who help me with my work.
With the money they have provided, today I am trying to build a proper house in a proper land where I can let these people live. I do not want to keep them uncomfortably in tents any longer,” he said. Goswami’s daughter Rekha, some years back, was going to get married, and her mother had saved a huge amount of money for the purpose. “To build the home under the flyover, I took all the money. My daughter is not married to this day. However, the happy news is that she is engaged and going to get married in February this year, and a lot of people have promised to help me. I personally do not have any money to help her. Whatever money I get goes into helping the needy, and I will not use it elsewhere,” he said.
His son, Kamal, is married. The smiles of the people Goswami helps are his reward No matter how many people help, having enough funds is still a problem, and Goswami hopes more people will come forward to help him. He has also created an NGO called Dev Animal Voluntary Organisation, but it does not work only for animals.
“We have helped groups of 5,000 to 10,000 women get married and we provide kids from classes I to V with food, books, clothes, towels, stationery and other things they need,” he said. There are groups of people from the age of 15 to 85 who are not mentally well, who talk to themselves but not to each other, and the NGO helps them lead a proper life. They arrange games for them to help them engage in work. They rear and take care of cows to provide people with milk and milk products. “Among the several people who help me with my work with funds and mental support, are Sardar Ujjwal Singh and Pradeep Agarwal from a firm called Signature Global. This firm has assisted us in several ways,” Goswami said. Goswami lives for the love he gets from those he helps Goswami’s biggest wish is to create a dispensary only for the people he helps. He says that government hospitals often do not provide the help we need, and does not want to depend on anybody. However, he now owns an ambulance. “I am a poor man and I hardly earn anything for myself. I eat and wear what others give me, and honestly, I am determined not to do anything that is going to help me personally. I wish to build homes for the homeless in every part of the country. I live to serve others, and their smiles are my reward. I do not take money from them. I want to be remembered after I die. I do not want fame, but I want the love I have been getting all these years from those I have helped. What could be a better return gift than a smile and some love?” Goswami said. In a world full of people with materialistic needs, in a world that witnesses violence and crime every day, the existence of a man like Dev Dass Goswami is what keeps hope alive in our hearts. The Logical Indian salutes him for his selfless service to society.
The Man Who Has Been Fighting Untouchability In Bihar Villages For 14 Years
Sumanti Sen (Digital Journalist)
Editor : Sumanti Sen
In a country where people talk about freedom and liberal mindset, caste system and untouchability is a harrowing reality in several parts of the nation. In 2019, it is perhaps difficult to imagine but untouchability is a glaring, tangible reality. We read how untouchability is a wrong practice, we debate and argue, we write about it, but how many of us have really done something to bring about a change? In the year 2005, Sanjeev Kumar from Delhi, an MBA graduate, was pursuing a career in modelling. A young man of 24, he was the youngest of five siblings. In the same year, after his sister’s mother-in-law’s demise, he had to visit Khagaria zilla in Bihar to attend a gathering arranged in her memory. Little did he know that his visit to Bihar was going to change his life forever. His encounter with the Dom caste During the gathering, a traditional ‘bhoj’ was arranged for the guests. Good food overwhelmed everyone, and as usual, a lot of food simply went into the dustbins. “I was taking a stroll after the meal, and in a dark corner of an empty space, I saw some people scavenging the dustbins and eating the leftovers dumped into it. When I asked them, they told me they were treated as untouchable and they were not allowed to eat with the rest of the people. I was left speechless,” Sanjeev said in a conversation with The Logical Indian. He immediately went back to have a word with his sister and her father-in-law.
“They told me that these people were untouchable and belonged to the Dom caste, and were not allowed to mix with society. I was not allowed to go near them either, he told me. However, I returned to Delhi with my parents but the sight of these people eating leftovers refused to leave me. I was scarred. Wherever I went, the picture followed me. I could not walk on the ramp. I started to dislike everything and everyone around me. Until that day, I did not know the chilling reality that untouchability was,” he said. Sanjeev has been fighting against untouchability for 14 years Sanjeev had enough of Delhi and his house. He had left his soul in the villages of Bihar, with the people who have never tasted freedom. “I told my parents I wanted to go to Bihar and do something for them. I wanted to fight for their rights. But it was risky, my parents told me. The whole thing was political. It took me a year to convince my parents that staying here, going to expensive restaurants, eating good food had become impossible for me. In the same country, I felt like we and the untouchables were living in two different worlds. How and why were they different? What had they done? What was their fault? I had to find the answers to the questions that had troubled me for a year, and I had to erase the horrid picture that was embedded in my head, once and forever,” he said. The beginning of the journey In 2006, Sanjeev simply left his home. With a couple of clothes in a small bag, he sat on a train that would take him to Bihar. He had decided to put up at his sister’s place. “I knew I could not tell them the real reason why I was here. They would not accept it. So I told him that I had simply come to visit them, and they were happy. At the back of my mind, I had a plan,” said Sanjeev. Every morning, Sanjeev would leave for the area where the people from the Dom caste lived. He began learning about their lives. They survived on leftovers, hardly bathed and had no connection with the outer world. The only work they did was to clean toilets and even if they touched a tap, people washed it before using it. He remembered the meal they had had last year. His sister’s father-in-law had spent lakhs of rupees to arrange the meal for so many people, and yet what these people got were leftovers from the dustbin. “However, in such a small area, words spread like wildfire. Soon, villagers saw me bathing, teaching and spending my days with these people. As expected, they complained to my sister’s family. They warned me, but I told them I could not give up on my mission. What is happening here is wrong, I told them. They are human beings just like you and me. They are made of flesh and blood. They feel pain, hunger and dismay just like we do. It’s wrong and I will have to win the battle,” Sanjeev said Finally, Sanjeev was turned out of the house. Helpless, he went to his grandfather’s house in another village nearby. His grandfather was dead, but his father’s brother and his son lived their. They took him in. “They took me in, but not for long. As words kept spreading about me, they had planned a trap for me. I came back home one day and saw people crying. And I saw a dead body on the floor,” he said. The villagers had fed his cousin poison. They had told his cousin that if he took a little bit of it, he would be fine, but he died. The plan was to put the blame on Sanjeev. Sanjeev formed a group called Bahishkrit Hitkari Sangathan to fight against untouchability “Everybody knew I had not killed him, but everybody said so, just to turn me out of the village. However, one sensible man, who was the block development officer, helped me out of the trap, and I left the house. I rented a room in a different area, but it was not even a room. There was no electricity, no bathroom, I had to bathe in the open. But by then, I had become one among the Dom people. They had become my family,” he said. The fight against untouchability Among the many initiatives that Sanjeev took to fight against untouchability, he formed a group called Bahishkrit Hitkari Sangathan. People from other so-called untouchable castes, Chamar and Mushar, joined him. “My daily routine included walking at least 16 kilometres to go round some of the 40 villages I was catering to, interacting with these people and empowering them. By this time, I had made a lot of enemies,” he smiled. Sanjeev created separate panchayats comprising people from these castes. People among them became the sarpanch and took other leading positions. They held meetings and campaigns to spread empowerment. “The untouchables were not allowed to touch the Ganga water, and I decided to break this “rule”. 400-500 people, with musical instruments and horses, went to bathe in the Ganga. Water is for everyone, and we would not let anyone tell us that a river is their right. The Ganga is as much ours as theirs. People were scared at the sight of us, and did not dare to stop us. We looked and felt like warriors. Finally, the women filled their matkas with water from the Ganga, and the rule was broken,” he said From then onwards, with Sanjeev leading the group, the people made it clear that they will not clean toilets anymore. They will not eat leftovers. They will worship Gods and bathe in the Ganga. They will accept no more any form of discrimination. “I was threatened at every point of my life. I was carried away by goons and almost killed. Local MLAs have threatened to kill me, and attacked me on several occasions, especially after, along with my people, began worshipping our Hindu Gods. I was beaten up and left half dead, but every time, I managed to live. Perhaps I was meant to live. Perhaps I will be dead soon. It does not matter. As long as I live, I will work for these people,” he said.
Despite threats to his life, Sanjeev has valiantly led the revolution “With a lot of effort over the years, I have earned the support of some people who helped me get funds for my people. Aamir Khan has extended his support to us.
The government has helped me arrange proper land and homes for them to live in. They have a life now. There are people who hug them and shake their hands. The best part is they have learnt to fight for their rights. A lot has changed in these villages in these 14-15 years, but a lot more has to change. Most people still hate them and believe they are untouchable. They hate me because I am one of them and any day they might be successful at killing me. If I die, I know they will fight for themselves. I have begun the revolution,” Sanjeev said.
Sanjeev is in touch with his family in Delhi, and they sometimes help them with funds. But he is not ready to go back. These Bihar villages and his wonderful people have won his heart. “I don’t regret the fact that I left modelling, my city and my family. The urge and the passion to change the world came very naturally to me, and I have followed my heart. We sure are free from the British rule, but are we really free as long as we are not equal?
Everybody is born the same from their mother’s womb, and their castes are decided only by us. We do not have the right to label a human being as anything other than a human being,” he said. In between all that was going on, Sanjeev’s parents convinced him to get married. “They thought this might make me come back to Delhi, but I was not ready for that. When my wife was pregnant, she left me. I have a son today, but have never seen him,” Sanjeev said. Sanjeev gives us the hope that one day, we will all be free. We will all live with equality, compassion and love. He gives us the will to fight and the determination to stand up for ourselves. The Logical Indian salutes Sanjeev Kumar for his courage and will power.
Sunita Eknath Bhosale
Sunita’s struggle as a woman from Pardhi Community
Sunita Eknath Bhosale was born in Shiroor. Her family consists of the five members, father-mother, two sisters, and one brother. Sunita came from a socio-economically backward family. Sunita and her family lived in very poor conditions. Her father used to earn his living from hunting, which is the traditional work of fase-paradhi, the fase-paradhi community is stigmatized and criminalized by calling them thieves. Her mother was handicapped with her left hand due to which she could not contribute in household chores, Sunita being eldest amongst the children, the responsibility to handle the house was on Sunita at a very tender age. When she was 3 years old her father died, Sunita’s mother did menial work to earn the living for family but when she could not work due to her physical disability, she earned the living from begging.
Mother could not keep up with her failing health thus the responsibilities to earn the living came over to Sunita. She worked as a laborer in a farm for Rs. 10 per day for a year; she then worked in a sugar factory. This was a heavy work of lifting containers full of stones on her head. She had to leave this job and she also began begging for a living.
Even though sunita was the earning member of the family she experienced discrimination from her mother’s side. Her mother was patriarchal in her interactions with daughters. She looked after her son’s needs and almost neglect the daughters.
Today sunita’s sister is married and her brother works in a national defense academy as a gardener.
Sunita started schooling when she was 8 years old. During her school years she faced discrimination from the classmates and teachers who belonged to upper caste. In the school the responsibility to fill the drinking water was on the upper caste Maratha community children. Sunita was not allowed to drink the filled water but she had to go all the way to the hand pump and draw water from there. She was always teased on her caste name; her school mates would humiliate her for begging. Sunita was very rebellious. She would not tolerate the teasing and humiliation but she and her brother would beat the kids who had teased her. Sunita and her sisters were school drop outs; sunita did her schooling up to the 6th grade and her sister till the 4th. The poor family conditions and patriarchy were the main reasons why sunita and her sisters could complete the studies. Their brother made it to graduation in arts.
When sunita was 14 years old she attended a conference organized by Manavi Hakka Abhiyan. This conference has a very huge influence on sunita. Eknath Awad and Rajendra Kale were the main speakers of the conference. Listening to these speakers speaking problems of Fase-Pardhi community sunita felt encouraged to work for upliftment of her community. While she was motivated to work she was also anxious if she can do a lot with her low education and poverty stricken family background. She took inspiration from the story of a great writer Anna Bhau Sathe who went to school only a day and a half whereas she had studied till the grade 6.
Sunita started working with the activists Vilas Bhosale and Popat Chavan. She started actively participating in marches against atrocities and women’s meeting held in manavi hakka abhiyan. She gradually realized that the situation of fase paradhi is very critical and grim. She saw that Fase paardhi are the people who constantly migrate due to which they don’t own a house or a land, they don’t get their names registered in the election list and they don’t even have a ration card. There was a high number of child marriage, lack of education and no family planning, lack of health care facilities were the main problems that were observed by sunita.
Moreover Fase paradhi are stigmatized and criminalized. It was being seen that whenever there would be a crime in a village police and the whole village would first target and attack the fase paradhi community members. The atrocities by villagers and police were severe. Sunita felt a great need to work on these issues due to which fase paradhi are marginalsed. She visioned dignity, equality and rights for fase paradhi communities which were denied to them. She worked on these vision delegently and she observed that fase paradhi community is getting settled at one place and stabilizing which ensures trust amongst villagers for the community. They have ration cards and their names are registered in election list. She also saw a big number of fase paradhi children are getting enrolled in school.
Today sunita is head of ‘Tanta Mukta Samiti’; with the help of this committee sunita resolves the conficts amongst the villagers and fase paradhi. Not only has this but sunita also resolved the conficts of Non-Dalit women. She talks of specificity of violence and atrocities on fase paradhi women; she thinks fase paradhi women are more vulnerable than Non-Dalit upper caste women because of the low caste they belong to. She also feels that solving problems of women won’t help fase paradhi women as it’s a problem of caste and gender. She wants to ensure the rights of fase paradhi community.
Creating a networking of activists at Maharashtra level.
Putting pressure on the state to create a special mahamandal for fase paardhi community.
Eradicate the stigma of criminalization of the fase paradhi community.
Appealing the government for the creation of hostel facilities for fase paradhi children to encourage them in education.
Abolishing the ‘jat panchayat’ prevailing in the fase paradhi community.
Encouraging the active political participation of fase pardhi community.
Helping fase paradhi youth to become class one officers.
”For four years, she cycled 22 miles to school each day. She also began tutoring other Dalit students in the community, and eventually was hired as a schoolteacher.
"Once my parents realized the difference education can make on life, and the difference women like me can make on the Dalit community, they fully began to support me," Raj said. "My mother’s only concern was my marriage, but that’s a worldwide problem, isn't it?"
Raj now lives in Patna with her husband, and they both work for the Dalit community. She is involved in fact-finding missions to learn more about rape cases, create reports, and ensure that authorities properly register and investigate these incidents.
But Dalit women often come up against significant obstacles in a system they believe is designed to work against them, activists said. Sanghapali Aruna, 34, is a Dalit activist who is also part of the Dalit Women Fight campaign.
Sanghapali Aruna said that after learning that she was from the Dalit caste, a job interviewer at one of India's big marketing firms rescinded his offer. Since then, she has worked as an activist.
Aruna said that her father is also a Dalit activist, and growing up, she was constantly taught to be proud of her identity and caste. After a job interview at one of India’s leading marketing firms, she said the interviewer asked her what caste she belonged to after congratulating her for getting the job. Aruna said she proudly told him she was from the Dalit community.
"The interviewer didn’t say anything, but I could tell he was taken aback. He took back the job offer and told me to wait for his phone call while he makes a final decision," Aruna said.
She never received that call, or that job. But she did become involved in Dalit activism. She questions India's government on why Dalit women’s rapes are not even granted the same attention that non-Dalit rapes receive, which is hardly enough as it is.
"Talking about rape in India without talking about caste-based sexual violence is akin to talking about slavery in America without talking about black people," Aruna said.
Dalit Women Fight activists arrived in San Francisco on September 29, just two days after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had given a speech in nearby San Jose.
"India has moved on from scriptures to satellites," Modi said in his speech. "The world has started to believe that the 21st century belongs to India."
But Dalit women say that until caste-based discrimination and violence are eliminated, India cannot move forward.
"Forget Modi. Currently, even local police officers are not willing to give us an audience. When we take a rape case to them, they say, 'This girl was not raped, she willingly had sexual relations and now wants to bribe the upper caste for money,' or 'Why would an upper-caste man touch a Dalit?' or they write it off as a suicide," Mashaal said.
"Neither Modi nor the non-Dalit population of India is willing to admit the existence of caste-based sexual violence, much less address it," she added.
From 'untouchable' to role model
Chaumar was a Dalit and worked as a scavenger who collected garbage, feces
She was involved in a menial profession no one wanted and deemed "untouchable"
Under Sulabh International's guidance, Chaumar and others learned to design saris
She was crowned "Princess of Sanitation Workers" at the United Nations
By Sara Sidner
ALWAR, India (CNN) -- At birth, Usha Chaumar's life story had already been written.
So-called scavengers collect the garbage, feces and urine of higher caste people.
Illiterate and married off at age 10, Chaumar was forced into the only livelihood her family has known for generations.
As a Dalit, the lowest level in India's complex caste system, she was a so-called scavenger, a person who collects the garbage, feces and urine of other higher caste people. In the eyes of many, that would make her too disgusting to touch.
"They used to call me all kind of names,'' Chaumar, now 33, said. "I used to feel very bad. but what could I do? I didn't have any work to do but this job."
Traditionally, the age-old Hindu caste system is a social hierarchy that determines what occupation a person should pursue. Broadly, the system has four major castes and thousands of sub-castes.
At the upper rung are Brahmins, the priestly class; followed by the Kshatriya or warrior caste; the Vaishya, the trading community; and the Shudras -- trades like carpenters, barbers and metalworkers. The Dalits are involved in menial professions that no one else wants. Hundreds of thousands of Indians are believed to fall in this category.
Officially, the caste system has been outlawed, but millennia of tradition have left deep dividing lines in Indian society.
In The Field blog: The untouchables
Sulabh International Social Service Organisation
United Nations Development Programme
In the town of Alwar in the northern state of Rajasthan, there are about 300 so-called "untouchable" women working in this profession.
For her efforts, Chaumar got paid $7 to $10 a month. But it helped to feed her three children.
India has laws against "manual scavenging," as it is called. But the work is still around, in part because of the poor sanitation system in India. In many parts of the country, especially in rural India, many toilets are dry bucket toilets (named for the way they are shaped) that are not hooked up to any pipes. The waste just drops to the ground below.
Manju Atwal says she cleans 20-25 bucket toilets a month and makes about $20 per month, which helps feed her six children.
"For the past 20 years my life hasn't been a life. The world treats us like insects," Atwal said. "I want to walk upright, get a good job and get rid of this dirty work so the world wouldn't oppose us. We want to walk with the world," Atwal said. Watch as Manju cleans her neighbors' waste »
Now 56 former "untouchable" women from Alwar are getting their wish. They are quitting their demeaning jobs and walking with their heads held high, no longer invisible to those around them.
Dr. Bindeswar Pathak of Sulabh International is their guide.
"I saw their conditions, and I thought they were living like ... pigs," Dr. Pathak said. "So why not give them some alternative jobs ... to do something else."
Dr. Pathak happens to be from India's highest caste. His interest in helping Dalits began at an early age.
"While I was a child at 13 years old, I touched an untouchable. For that my grandmother forced me to swallow cow dung, cow urine and Ganges water to purify myself," Pathak said.
He was dismayed at the experience and for the past 40 years has made it his mission to elevate the downtrodden. So far, his organization says it's helped more than 60,000 "untouchables" and installed more than a million of its eco-friendly, humane toilets in India alone.
The United Nations Development Program estimates 2.6 billion people do not have access to a clean and safe place to go to the toilet. It is a recipe for deadly disease.
The U.N. deemed 2008 the Year of Sanitation to bring awareness to the importance of proper sanitation.
Dr. Pathak and the former "untouchables" of Alwar were invited to New York to illustrate that point and also be honored. Pathak took 36 of the women to the United Nations, the women's first trip outside India.
In New York, the spotlight shone on the women, as they strode down the runway modeling the blue saris that they now design and tailor.
The former sanitation workers used to spend their lives covering their faces so they did not upset those around them. Now they are objects of admiration.
Usha Chaumar was singled out for her amazing accomplishments: She can read and write now and is no longer doing the dirtiest of work. She was crowned "Princess of Sanitation Workers" at the United Nations Watch Chaumar wear the crown and describe her life before »
It is a title that will take time to get used to after being treated like dirt for most of her life.
"I am overjoyed getting this honor in New York and wearing this crown," Usha said.
"There was a time when there was only filth on my head, and now it has a gold crown."