VIOLENCE AGAINST DALITS IN NUMBERS
After the killing of a person during the violence on the 200th anniversary celebrations of the battle of Bhima-Koregaon, violence against Dalits in India is again under the spotlight.
National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), which gathers data about different crimes in the country, shows that the rate of crimes against Dalits has risen in the last few years. The conviction rate for such crimes has also declined substantially.
In 2016, an estimated 214 incidents of crimes against scheduled castes (SCs) were reported per million SC population, up from 207 the previous year, according to the NCRB data.
In all of India, 40,801 atrocities against Dalits were reported in 2016, up from 38,670 in 2015.
of reported crimes in Uttar Pradesh were committed against Dalits in 2016.
Uttar Pradesh reported the highest number of atrocities against Dalits, the NCRB data shows, at 25.6% of all cases reported. This is followed by Bihar (14%) and Rajasthan (12.6%).
According to the NCRB data, most of the crimes against SCs reported were crimes against women, including assault, sexual harassment, stalking, voyeurism and insult to modesty.
of reported crimes in Uttar Pradesh against Dalits were committed against women in 2016.
Uttar Pradesh reported 14.5% (49,262 out of 3,38,954 cases) of total cases of crimes against women followed by West Bengal (9.6%) (32,513 cases) during 2016.
MAPPING VIOLENCE AGAINST DALITS
The NCRB data shows us the numbers, revealing that even in this age, being a Dalit in the country isn’t easy. However, it doesn’t tell us the larger story. Why are these people attacked? What makes the people belonging to the “upper-caste” feel a sense of superiority?
In attempting to map the atrocities against Dalits in the last one year, we came across some horrifying incidents. In the first incident of 2017, three people were beaten up in Uttar Pradesh because they didn’t greet an ‘upper-caste’ man with ‘Ram Ram’. In the same state, a woman and her unborn child died after she was beaten up all because she touched the bucket of an upper caste Thakur. Dalits are often socially boycotted, denied food and work from the upper caste forcing them to flee homes and sometimes, even take their own lives. And, this is what the NCRB data doesn’t tell us.
In an attempt to go beyond the numbers, News18 mapped incidents of Dalit atrocities over the last one year across India.
To put together this map, we have pulled the incidents that were only covered by the English media publications. We have been able to find 44 cases in the last year that were reported.https://www.news18.com/news/immersive/documenting-violence-against-dalits-one-assault-at-a-time.html
Dalits Thrashed Over Suspicion of Practising ‘Black Magic
13 persons have been arrested so far under the Anti‑Superstition and Black Magic Act.
Seven members of two Dalit families were thrashed by locals of a village in Maharashtra’s Chandrapur district on suspicion of practising "black magic" on Saturday, 21 August.
The incident took place in Wani village under Jiwati tehsil over the weekend. So far, 13 people have been arrested under the Anti‑Superstition and Black Magic Act.
Five of the seven Dalit members were seriously injured and had to be hospitalised. The incident was recorded on video, where it can be seen that the families were assaulted by dozens of villagers.
What Instigated the Villagers?
During Moharram, the villagers claim, three women in the village had ‘devi’ in them, for which they blame the Dalit members of two families, saying they practiced ‘black magic’ on the women.
Later, the two families were called to the village square, where they were then brutally beaten. The injured included Shantabai Kamble (53), Shivraj Kamble (74), Sahebrav Huke (48), Dhamsheela Huke (38), Panchphula Huke (55), Prayagbai Huke (64), and Eknath Huke (70).
Additional SP of Chandrapur Atul Kulkarni informed on Saturday night that the crowd tied three of the family members, including two women, to wooden poles, punched them and thrashed them with sticks, news agency PTI reported.
The police reached the spot of the incident at night and rescued the Dalit members who were made hostage by the villagers. The victims were moved to Chandrapur Government Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) for treatment.
On Sunday, policemen were deployed in the village to maintain law and order.
Meanwhile, Chandrapur MP Suresh alias Balu Dhanorkar visited GMCH to enquire about the victims’ well-being on Monday.
Condemning the incident, the Congress leader said Maharashtra is a progressive state and appealed to people not to fall prey to superstitions.
(With inputs from PTI)
Family stripped naked, Dankaur
On October 9, A dalit family was stripped naked on road including a woman by none other than police in Greater Noida near the Capital. Gautam and his brothers were robbed on gun point on Tuesday evening while they were watering their farmland. Their motorbike besides some cash, was also taken by the robber about which Gautam went to police to get a FIR registered on Wednesday morning. Gautam demand speedy action against the robbers and his demands irked police official at Dankaur police station who allegedly stripped member of family and threw them out on road.
Was the Dalit Family in Dankaur Really Stripped by the Police?
At about noon, on 7 October 2015, a Dalit farmer named Sunil Gautam was sitting naked on a brick-paved street that cuts through the town market of Dankaur village in Uttar Pradesh. I spoke to dozens of shopkeepers who told me he had stripped as a form of protest. He did this, his sister, Laukesh Kumari, said when I met her this Saturday, on 10 October, “Because the police refused to register his complaint.” She told me that Gautam wanted to file an FIR (First Information Report) which stated that Mahendra Gurjar—who owns a patch of land next to Gautam’s, close to the Jaypee Sports City in Greater Noida—had stolen his bike, the keys to his auto-rickshaw, and a sum of Rs 850 on the evening of 5 October. The police, however, told me that Gautam did not want to file a written complaint, and that, based on their prior experience with him, they were wary of being accused by him of filing an erroneous FIR. Gautam, his brother Sohan Lal, and their wives Harwati and Reeta are all currently in custody at Noida’s Luksar jail.
Within days the matter had spread well beyond the town, thanks to social media. A video shot by some passers-by had made its way online and local media websites had published unconfirmed news reports. One such report wasa storypublished by a news website called Dailysikhupdates.com, that was titled “DALIT FAMILY MADE TO PARADE NAKED BY POLICE IN UP CAUSES OUTRAGE ON SOCIAL MEDIA.” The report is no longer available on the website. Soon after, other video clips began surfacing on the internet; these contradicted the narrative that had gained traction and indicated that that the family had done so of its own accord. When I reached Dankaur on 9 October, it was already close to 9 pm and the market in which this incident took place was shut. There were no streetlights, and the village was enveloped in darkness. Earlier that day, a fact-finding team that comprised activists from some Left parties visited Dankaur. Their reportstated thatthe police never filed Gautam’s FIR. It went on to claim that Praveen Kumar, the station officer at the Dankaur police station, had torn Gautam’s shirt and beaten him up, before doing the same to his sister-in-law Reeta when she tried to intervene. I was unable to corroborate either this or much of the other information in that report through my experience in Dankaur.
The police in Dankaur, I found, consider Gautam a nuisance because he files too many complaints. At the police station there, he has a file dedicated to him—a grey paper folder that serves as a record of Gautam’s grievances.“And that is only from this year,” said Jogendra Yadav, a constable, as he nonchalantly flipped through its pages before tossing the dossier to me. These complaints had been submitted in a running hand on Gautam’s personal letterhead, which, in large letters, announces his name as: “Sunil Kumar Gautam (Chamar Jatav).” In one note, dated 21 March, he brings to notice that there is only one cashier at the State Bank of India branch in Dankaur; in another one he filed on 23 June, Gautam registered his discomfort with thehijras—transgender people—who would turn up to ask for money whenever a child was born in the neighbourhood.
Given the number of formal complaints that he appeared to have authored, it seemed strange to me that Gautam did not submit a written complaint on the evening of 5 October, immediately after he was allegedly robbed by Gurjar. “He is just that kind of man, you can’t really reason with him, he does what he wants to,” Kumar told me when I met him on 10 October. The townspeople I spoke to seemed to consider Gautam an oddity too; no conversation I had was complete without anecdotes about his penchant for haircuts. “Sometimes he cuts half of his moustache, sometimes he goes half-bald,” said Azad Ansari, who works as a dentist and has a clinic in the town market. Gautam has also contested several elections,most recentlyfor the position of a member of parliament from the area. An owner of a juice-centre in the market told me, “Gautam runs for every seat, but only gets the vote of his family.” In 2013, officials from the police station and the villagers told me, Gautam was arrested for hurling sexual obscenities at Durga Nagpal, who was then the sub-divisional magistrate of the area.
According to Kumar, there were not too many policemen at the Dankaur station on the evening of 5 October. “Elections for village pradhan are going on, most of my force was on field,” Kumar said. But even those who were there, Kumar added, did not want to write the complaint for Gautam. “You have to be cautious with him,” Kumar told me, “he is the kind of person who can later write a complaint that you are writing fake complaints in his name.” Shortly after, Gautam went back to his home in Atta Gujraan, a village that is about six kilometres away from the police station.
The next day, on 6 October—according to the police and Gautam’s family—he returned to the station in the evening and filed a written complaint. “It was late again, but his application was accepted, and the FIR was filed next morning. It was slightly delayed, but there’s an election going on!” Kumar said. The copy of the FIR I saw was filed at 6.30 am on 7 October. “That was when officers came on their morning duty,” explained Yadav.
According to Laukesh, Gautam’s sister, this FIR was never registered. However, Kumar claimed that Gautam came to check on the status of his complaint the next day, on 7 October, and went back towards the market once he was shown that the FIR had been lodged. By noon, Gautam and his family were protesting in the market. That morning, although Kumar was in his office, he was not in uniform. He told me that he was in a hurry to reach Pari Chowk in Greater Noida: “My brother-in-law’s son had high fever, and we were concerned that it could be dengue, so I was going to take him to a hospital,” he said. But he couldn’t move through the market, which was jammed—a crowd had formed around the naked figure of Sunil Gautam.
“I went and asked him why he is protesting now that the FIR has been filed, he said that I should arrest Mahendra Gurjar,” Kumar told me. This was not something that Kumar was in a position to do. There had been no investigation in the case, and since the complaint involved a member of the scheduled caste, it could only be carried out by the circle officer. Gautam, according to four people who claimed to be eyewitnesses of the spectacle, wasn’t happy when Kumar told him this. “He wouldn’t listen and he was causing a traffic jam, so I tried to drag him away,” Kumar said.
By then, Gautam’s elder brother Sohan Lal had also slipped out of his pants. Shortly after, as I saw in a video clip that had been recorded on a phone, Gautam tore the clothes of his own wife Harwati. Kumar was also visible in the video as he attempted to drag Gautam away from Harwati along with other policemen. However, Gautam dashed back to her, and as she was putting hersalwarback on, he disrobed her once again, before turning to Sohan’s wife, Reeta.
“At around the same time, three schools surrounding the market were shutting for the day and the children were getting out,” Ansari, the dentist who claimed to be an eyewitness, told me when I met him on 9 October. “Once the kids came out, they started shooting whatever was happening on their phones—so now there are a hundred versions of the same incident, depending upon which video you watched.” Mohammad Javed, who also owns a shop in the area added, “But, essentially, there are just two.”
When I reached Gautam’s house in Atta Gujraan on Saturday, the circle officer Ajay Kumar was there. He refused to speak with me. “I won’t be giving you a bite,” he said, and walked away. However, Gautam’s sister, Laukesh,who I did meet, was more forthcoming than the police. “Hamari baat suno, who kya batayenge,”—listen to us, what will they tell you—she said.
“We are Dalits,” Laukesh began, “and that is why it all happened.” According to Laukesh, the police did not file the FIR and proceeded to beat up the family when they were protesting. “The SHO, Praveen Kumar, wasn’t filing the FIR, he asked Sunil [Gautam] to go away,” she said, before adding that Kumar had told Gautam, “Tum sab chamar aise hi pareshaan karte ho—Only you chamars stir up so much trouble.” “Chamar,” historically used for members of leather-worker communities, is still used as a slur for Dalits and people from lower castes through much of north India. Mid-way through this narration, she paused, and asked me if I understood how serious an offence that is. I said I did, to which she responded, “Haan to likho kitnaserioushai—Note down how serious it is then.” Laukesh continued, “The SHO [station house officer] came to the spot and started beating them and tearing their clothes, and then put them in jail.” She concluded, “All of this only because he doesn’t like lower caste people to show up in the police station.”
“Our demand is that we be given compensation, Sunil [Gautam] and his family be released from the jail and SHO Praveen Kumar be sacked immediately,” said Laukesh. I asked her about the things that I had heard about Gautam, about the haircuts and the unusual complaints. “Stylehai uska, sheher me log kya ky akartehain—sabkastylehota hai—It is his style, just like the people in cities—everyone has their own style,” she said, before adding, “Baki sab log baat bana rahe hain, jalte hain usse. Sunil ki baith choti-moti nahi hai, bahut neta aur media wale jaante hain usko, door door se aaye the kal. Is baar jeetega woh chunaav”—Everyone else is making up tales, they are jealous of him. Sunil moves around with people of high stature; many politicians and media representatives know him, they had come from very far-off last night. He is going to win the elections this time. As I was about to leave, she asked me to note down my name and contact number in a diary. “Kabhi bhi zarurat pad sakti hai, sabse likhwa rahe hain—It could be useful, I have made everyone who has met me write it down,” she explained.
ATUL DEV is a staff writer at The Caravan.
SC/ST Atrocity Prevention Act
A total of 11,143 cases were reported under this Act in 2009. U.P. has reported 2,554 cases accounting for 22.9% of the total cases in the country followed by Bihar (22.7%).
Now it becomes imperative to find out the reasons for the high incidence of crime against Dalits in U.P. The first reason is that unfortunately the implementation of the laws relating to registration and investigation of cases relating to atrocities on Dalits are not being implemented properly. The obsession of the present Chief Minister to show a decrease in crime against Dalits is giving leverage to the police for non registration of cases. This leads to burking of atrocity crimes which can be seen from the frequent complaints of non registration of cases appearing in the daily news papers. The crime review based on crime statistics forces the police to keep the crime figures low to put up a crime control picture. The result is that the statistics given out by the police are only a fraction of the actual incidence of crime. Thus the Dalit atrocities remain unaccounted and uncared for making the victims to suffer haplessly.
The second reason is non application of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocity Act-1989 to the crimes committed against Dalits. It is well-known that Mayawati had stopped the application of this Act in 1997 under the pretext of checking its misuse. Actually it was a ploy to please her high caste followers who frequently resort to such atrocities. She had issued arbitrarily a government order to this effect. She directed the police to apply this Act in murder and rape cases only and that too after medical examination and preliminary enquiry. All other atrocity cases were ordered to be registered under normal laws i.e. Indian Penal Code and other Acts. Although this order was withdrawn in 2003 but the practice continues unabated. The victims have to approach the court frequently to get their cases registered. Only a few victims are able to take help from the court and majority fails to get this relief. Thus a very large number of atrocity cases go unregistered under this Act. The result is that the culprits go scot free and the victims get no help from police. The non registration of atrocity cases results in double loss to the victims. Firstly the culprits are not punished and secondly Dalits get no monetary compensation as admissible under the rules for the loss suffered by them. Thus Dalits suffer a double jeopardy.
Thirdly the policy of pleasing the Sarvjan (high castes) followed by Mayawati makes her lenient towards them. It is true that a large number of persons with criminal records have joined Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and have become MLAs and MPs. At present about a dozen MPs and MLAs of the ruling party (BSP) are involved in rape and abduction cases which mostly concern Dalit women and girls. Police is generally afraid of touching these influential persons. Only such cases get registered which get exposed in media and the government has to yield to public pressure.
From the above brief discussion it transpires that U.P. tops in atrocities against Dalits notwithstanding the fact that it is being ruled by a Dalit Chief Minister for the fourth term and she is about to complete her fourth year in chair. But the atrocities against Dalits are going on unabated. The out burst of women and Dalits against Mayawati during her recent field visits is an indicator that Maywaati has failed to bring relief to Dalits and common citizens. It may lead to a back lash during the coming Assembly elections in 2012.
Dalits barred from temple fest in Kannur; activist accuses Kerala’s CPM of discrimination
Feb, 11 2017
The age long injustice of barring lower castes from entering temples was removed in Kerala through a royal proclamation in 1936, but the workers of the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) in Kannur district are not ready to accept the spirit of the revolutionary action even after 75 years.
A temple governed by the party at Azhikkal in the district has turned down a demand by Dalits to end its century-old practice of skipping Dalit homes from an annual ritual. The Dalits have viewed the exclusion of their homes from the “Thiruvayudham Ezhunnallathu”, a procession of people carrying the sacred swords of the Goddess, during the annual festival of the Pampadi Aalinkeezhil temple as a clear case of discrimination against them.
The procession, an integral part of temple’s annual festival, is based on the belief that the homes where it visits will stand blessed by the deity. While the temple has been historically using the Dalits to carry the swords during the procession, paradoxically, it doesn’t allow the procession to visit their homes.
When the procession approaches the house of a Dalit, the oracle utter aloud that the home belongs to a Dalit and will, therefore, stand omitted. The temple committee controlled by the CPM has justified the practice saying that it was part of the tradition followed by the temple for over a century.
Mullankandi Mukundan, president of the temple committee, said that the procession was usually taken to the houses of communities that are associated with the temple festival. He said that the Dalits had no role in the annual festival.
Thekkan Sunil, who staged a 72-hour fast against the alleged discrimination, refuted this claim of the temple committee. Though the ritual is conducted as per a Thiya community custom, the procession visits the houses of all Hindus except the Dalits, Sunil said.
He told Firstpost that the Kannur district administration had termed the practice as a clear case of discrimination of Dalits and ordered the temple committee to confine the ritual to the houses of Thiyas if the custom did not allow equal treatment to everybody. The order was issued on a complaint that various Dalit organisations had lodged in 2015.
“The temple committee had abided by the order in 2015 and 2016. However, this year they have reverted to the old practice without showing any reason. I have brought this to the notice of the district collector, who has not taken cognisance of my complaint so far,” said Sunil, who is also the general secretary of Dalit organisation Janadhipathya Rashtriya Sabha.
The organisation is now mobilising signatures for a mass petition to be submitted to the state government and other agencies against the discriminatory practice. A case has already been filed by the Scheduled Caste and Tribes Commission against the temple committee, terming their action as a breach of law.
The Hindu Aikya Vedi, which is linked to the Sangh Parivar, has also come out against the practice. It has termed the practice as a case of untouchability and a violation of the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955.
“Letting Dalits enter the temple, but keeping them away from various rites and rituals is atrocious. Most of the poojas in the temple are conducted with the help of offerings from Dalit devotees. But keeping them away from rites and rituals is a reminder of the feudalistic era of bygone days. These were brought to a complete halt in 1955,” said a Hindu Aikya Vedi statement.
Sunil said that many other Hindu organisations were also against the continuation of this archaic practice. However, the local CPM leaders have been opposing all the moves to change it terming it as part of the temple’s tradition.
“This is a strange argument. The CPM was always been in the forefront of the struggles against discrimination. The party had played a prominent role in the 1931-32 Guruvayoor satyagraha for entry of untouchables in the famed temple. It is now supporting a plea for entry of women in Sabarimala hill shrine. How can such a party support a discriminatory practice in a tiny temple in a remote area?” asks Sunil.
The Dalit activist feels this may be because the CPM maintains a discriminatory approach towards Dalits in Kannur, which is the cradle of the Communist movement in the state. He said that the party men in many parts of the district were showing intolerance towards the Dalits for reasons not known.
He pointed out several cases to buttress his point. The arrest of two Dalit women, who raised their voice against alleged caste abuse by the CPM workers at Thalaserry, and the alleged persecution of a Dalit woman autorickshaw driver at Payyannur in the district are the two glaring cases in the recent past.
The two Dalit women Akhila, 30, and her 25-year-old sister Anjana, were arrested and jailed under non-bailable charges a month after the party-led government assumed power in the state on a complaint from a party worker that the two had barged into the party office at Thalaserry and beaten up two party men.
The women denied the charge. They said they had gone to the CPM office to question the caste-based taunts and obscene comments by CPM workers. The two decided to confront the party after they got fed up with the incessant abuse for years. The women were released on bail after the incident snowballed into a big controversy.
Chitralekha, a Dalit autorickshaw driver, had picked up cudgels against the CPM men when they made her life difficult after she joined the auto stand controlled by the party’s trade union wing in Edat, a village on the outskirts of Payyannur town. She had bought the autorickshaw under the Pradhan Mantri Rozgar Yojana.
The auto drivers belonging to the Centre for Indian Trade Unions (CITU), who did not like the woman’s foray into their domain, have been hounding her by attacking her and her family members and damaging the auto. Both came under attack several times in the last 12 years.
Though she staged a dharna for 122 days outside the Kannur collectorate in 2014 and another in front of the state secretariat for 20 days in February 2016, there has been no end to her persecution. Her autorickshaw came under attack a month after she ended her dharna at Thiruvananthapuram demanding protection from the miscreants.
An investigation into one such attack against Chithralekha in 2010 by a panel appointed by Feminists Kerala Network found that persecution of the Dalit woman was a ritualistic part of the untouchability practised in the region even today.
The commission, which included Gail Omvedt, publisher and activist V Geetha, and Nivedita Menon, concluded after a fact-finding visit to Payyannur that the intolerance towards the Dalit woman was the result of a fascist atmosphere created by the CPM in the area.
“The party enforces an extrajudicial power over all the people in its bastions in Kannur. It exists and thrives in the region through the use of power over entire villages. Anyone who questions the party or goes against its wishes is harassed, alienated, ostracised and sometimes even killed,” the report of the investigation said.
The report said that the attack on Chitralekha was not an isolated incident. Other Dalit women auto drivers in the region had faced similar intimidation, sexual harassment and caste-related abuses. Many have quit the trade following intimidation.
Chitralekha was facing unrelenting intimidation because she fought her tormentors by aligning with Dalit and feminist activists. The CITU apparently could not tolerate her stubborn courage and confidence.
The Azhikkal temple committee president said that the anti-Dalit charge was being hurled against the CPM by the party’s political rivals. He claimed that the party has been fighting for the rights of all the marginalised sections, including the Dalits.
Mukundan said that the party was not against changing the custom at the temple. However, the committee cannot do it without the consent of the devotees. He said that majority of the devotees, including many Dalits themselves, were against changing the custom. Courtesy: firstpost
Dalit woman assaulted, stripped in Hassan village
Hassan:,Updated: May 18, 2016
A Dalit woman was beaten and stripped allegedly by people of other castes at Gangooru village in Belur taluk on Thursday.
The incident occurred during a peace meeting held in the morning to ease tension in the village following Dalits’ entry into a temple, and a mass haircut programme organised by a Bangalore-based hairstylist in the village on February 11.
Men and women of other castes allegedly assaulted the woman and tore off her clothes.
“They stripped me in the centre of the village. More than 600 people had gathered,” the woman, who was in tears, told The Hindu. She has been admitted to the government hospital in Belur.
The woman’s husband was arrested on Tuesday in connection with the mass haircut programme.
‘Instigated the crowd’ During the peace meeting, one person allegedly instigated the crowd to assault her and strip her.“Not only men, even women, joined in humiliating me. They surrounded me, pulled me, hit me and within seconds, pulled off my clothes and pushed me to the ground. A handful of police personnel tried to prevent me from being humiliated further,” she said. The woman claimed that the police could not control the mob as there were very few personnel present.
The peace meeting was attended by officials, including Taluk Social Welfare Officer Lakshme Gowda, Deputy Superintendent of Police Manjunath Naik, and Belur taluk JD(S) president Ananta Subbarao. The woman and her relatives attended the meeting following an appeal by the officers.
“When we got there, there were hardly any Dalits. People of other castes were there in huge numbers. We stood in a corner. One of them criticised us and said we deserved humiliation. He continued his speech even as the Social Welfare Officer objected. The people took the officer to task for stopping him. Later, the group of men and women attacked me,” she alleged.
Ravi D. Channavara, Superintendent of Police, visited the village. He told The Hindu that the woman had given her statement and the police would register the complaint.
“We have a video clip as proof of the incident. We will book a case against all those involved and take action,” he said.
Dalit IAS and IPS officers neglected Puthiya Tamilagam
MADURAI: FEBRUARY 03, 2015
PUTHIYA TAMILAGAM FOUNDER K. KRISHNASAMY, ON MONDAY, WANTED THE CENTRE TO FRAME RULES WHICH ENSURED THAT IMPORTANT POSTS FOR IAS AND IPS OFFICERS IN ALL STATES WERE GIVEN IN ROTATION TO OFFICERS BELONGING TO SCHEDULED CASTES.ADDRESSING THE MEDIA, HE ACCUSED THE AIADMK GOVERNMENT OF NEGLECTING THE SENIOR IAS AND IPS OFFICERS BELONGING TO SCHEDULED CASTES AND SCHEDULED TRIBES IN THE STATE IN APPOINTMENT TO IMPORTANT POSTS. “WHEN BOTH THE DRAVIDIAN PARTIES HAVE NEVER POSTED A DALIT OFFICER AS HOME SECRETARY, THE AIADMK GOVERNMENT DOES NOT APPOINT THEM IN ANY OF IMPORTANT POSITIONS,” HE SAID.
After 1967 not even a single Dalit IAS officer has become Home Secretary in the State. Similarly, the AIADMK Government ignored Dalit IPS officers for top posts in the Police Department, he said
The Centre’s role is only in recruitment of the civil servants who are then deployed at the mercy of the State Governments. “The Centre should issue a standing order that would ensure that the posts like Home Secretary and Chief Secretary are given to Dalits on a rotation basis,” he said.
Though he said that he was not completely in agreement with the senior IAS officer C. Umashankar on his contention for taking up religious preachings, he said it could be out of neglect by the Government that the IAS officer, known for his integrity, converted to Christianity.
Dr. Krishnasamy said that Tamil Nadu stood second in rime against oppressed classes in the entire nation, next only to Uttar Pradesh. “Among those incidences, the southern districts accounted for the majority,” he said. “Southern districts have turned into a field for atrocities against Dalits,” he said. He said that he would seek the intervention of President of India for a setting up a special investigation team to probe into atrocities against Dalits.
Dr. Krishnasamy sought the Government to set up special courts to try cases registered under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act expeditiously.
Dalit Barred for Music
Kerala seldom hits the headlines for caste discrimination, but that does not mean its social fabric has been cleansed of the evil. Recently, administrators of the state’s most popular temple, Guruvayur, proved that by not allowing a Dalit musician to perform there. Kallur Babu, a taxi driver by profession, has been a percussion artiste for more than fifteen years. He was part of the Panchavadyam team that had a performance slated for 5 January in the temple. Panchavadyam is a traditional orchestra of Kerala with an ensemble of one wind and five percussion instruments. “We had one performance during the day, and I played for about an hour and a half. We were supposed to perform again in the evening after a break. But in between, I was informed that I would not be allowed to perform inside the temple as I was from a lower caste,” says Babu, a Dalit.
Temple authorities say they are following tradition, because only members of the Marar community (relatively high up in the caste hierarchy) are permitted to perform percussion instruments in the temple. “It is an age-old tradition. We cannot change it arbitrarily on our own,” says Vijayan Nambiar, deputy administrator of the temple. “It is the temple thanthri (priest) who is authorised to decide whether to change a custom or not.”
Babu has lodged a complaint about the matter with the chairman of the Guruvayur Devaswom Board, the trust that oversees the temple. TV Chandra- mohan, the Board chairman who is also a Congress leader, says that they have decided to hold an inquiry by a retired judge.
This is not the first time that Babu is being discriminated against. A few years ago, he had performed at the famous Thrissur Pooram as part of the Panchavadyam team of another temple, Thriuvambadi Devaswom. “They did not include me the next year. I was told that Dalits are not permitted to perform on the temple premises,” he says.
Kerala seldom hits the headlines for caste discrimination, but that does not mean its social fabric has been cleansed of the evil. Recently, administrators of the state’s most popular temple, Guruvayur, proved that by not allowing a Dalit musician to perform there. Kallur Babu, a taxi driver by profession, has been a percussion artiste for more than fifteen years. He was part of thePanchavadyam team that had a performance slated for 5 January in the temple. Panchavadyam is a traditional orchestra of Kerala with an ensemble of one wind and five percussion instruments.
Dalit groom, on horseback, pulled down, beaten up
PTI | Jun 8, 2014,
CHHATTARPUR: A dalit groom was allegedly beaten and forced to get down from the horse he was riding as part of a pre-wedding ritual, by upper caste men at Sadwa village in the district, the police said here on Sunday.
The incident took place two days ago, when as part of a pre-wedding ritual, the Dalit groom Manoj Ahirwar (21) went around the village on horseback, seeking blessings of village elders, when upper caste members objected to it, Chhattarpur's additional superintendent of police (ASP) Neeraj Pandey said.
He said that the police arrested seven people identified as Ladle Yadav, Khadia Yadav, Ammu Yadav, Mitthu Yadav, Jaahar Yadav, Ram Singh and Pavrat Pal, while six other accused are absconding.
As per village "tradition", only upper caste grooms are "allowed" to ride on horseback, while lower castes have to walk on foot to seek blessings of elders.
However, when the dalit groom was on his procession along with others on a horseback, a few among them allegedly commented something about upper caste women, which led to a scuffle and they strongly objected to the lower caste groom "violating" village "tradition".
Upper caste men including village headman Khuman Singh, allegedly attacked the Dalit groom, who was pulled down and beaten mercilessly. Allegedly, they also attacked women members of the procession and later escaped the spot.
The dalit groom and others went to the Badamalhera police station and lodged a complaint, after which a case was registered against 13 people including Khuman Singh and his two sons under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code and the SC/ST Act.
Dalit girl beaten up as her shadow falls on high caste muscleman
PTI | Updated: Jun 16, 2015
The incident took place on June 13 and the complaint was also filed on the same day at Gadi Malhera police station, Additional superintendent of police (ASP), Neeraj Pandey said.
According to the complaint lodged by the girl's father, the problem began when his daughter was fetching water from a village hand pump and her shadow fell on muscleman Puran Yadav (belonging to a higher caste) when he happened to pass by, the ASP said.
The episode enraged the family of the muscleman to such an extent that the women of the family severely beat the girl and threatened that if she was spotted again at the hand pump, they would kill her, he said.
Yadav's family also prevented the victim from going to police station, but they somehow managed to reach there. A case under sections 323, 341, 506 of the IPC has been registered against the accused and further investigation is under way.
In several remote pockets of India, where untouchability is still prevalent, people from the lower caste are forbidden to come in contact with those belonging to the higher rung so much so that they can't share their food, cook for them or even look them in the eye. It is even forbidden for their shadow to fall on higher caste people, who consider it as defiling or polluting.
Car of Retired Dalit Officer Washed With Cow’s Urine For Purity
India is a place where Minorities and people of low Castes are suffering badly in several States. Minorities and Low Castes are always treated unequally. Earlier this week a incident taken place in Indian State Karela which exposed real face of Indian Democracy and Equality with Minorities. A Dalit Officer A K Ramakrishnan who was Former Inspector General of Registration retired on 31st March and after his retirement other Officers and Workers of his department Washed Car, Furniture and other things used by that officer with Urine of Cow for Purity.
Dalit is considered the lowest Caste In Hindu religion and people of above castes don’t even touch the Dalits. On other hand Cow is given great respect in Hinduism and its Urine is also considered Pure. This is why Car and Furniture of this Dalit Officer where Washed with Cow’s Urine. Kerala Human Rights Commission has announced to register the case of this Incident.
The Kerala Human Rights Commission has registered a case and sought an explanation from the secretary, taxes department, after the office and car used by a Scheduled Caste state government officer was allegedly cleansed with cowdung after his retirement from service. Kerala is a state that is known for its high literacy rate and social awareness and so when a senior Dalit government officer found cow-dung sprinkled over his furniture and even inside his car, reportedly as a part of ‘cleansing ritual’ on retirement, it was shocking for many.
Upper caste men 'urinate' in dalit youth's mouth in Tamil Nadu
KRISHNAGIRI: A group of non-dalits in a Tamil Nadu village allegedly attacked a 20-year-old dalit youth and urinated in his mouth. The incident happened during a temple festival at Karuvanur in Krishnagiri district on March 2.
M Aravindhan (20), who is working as a welder at a private company in Bangalore, visited his native village to participate at a temple festival on March 2. “I went to the temple with my relative R Dinesh (20). Some caste Hindus used filthy words against us when they saw us,” Aravindhan said.
When the duo opposed it, the group attacked them. The caste men later dragged both of them to a nearby toilet and continued to beat them up.
Aravindhan fell on the ground. When he asked for a glass of water, the men allegedly urinated in his mouth.
Meanwhile, Dinesh, who managed to escape, alerted his family members. They rushed to the spot and rescued Aravindhan.
The next day, he was admitted to Dharmapuri Government Medical College and Hospital.
“I suffered several injuries when they attacked me,” the victim told TOI.
Meanwhile, he lodged a complaint with the Kallavi police. However, the police allegedly refused to register a case under the SC/ST Atrocities Prevention Act. “They just registered an assault case against unknown people,” he said.
Meanwhile, district secretary of the Tamil Nadu Kuravan Pazhankudiina Makkal Sangam (TNKPMS) S Ravi urged the Kallavi police to register the case under SC/ST Atrocities Prevention Act. “Police officials told me that they would extort money from the non-dalits in return for not registering a case against them. So, we have decided to take up this issue to the court,” Ravi said.
When contacted by TOI, the Kallavi police said they had registered a case and the investigating was going on. "We will alter the case once we confirm whether the dalit youth was harassed or not," they said.
‘untouchable’ Indian dog
Police in India are investigating claims that a Dalit woman has been ordered to pay compensation to the high-caste owners of a dog she fed.
Sunita Jatav fed Sheru some leftover bread
The woman says the village council wants her to pay a fine of 15,000 rupees ($330) for feeding the dog, which the owners have now kicked out. They are reported to have said the dog is “untouchable”, but deny being motivated by caste considerations. Although widespread, discrimination against Dalits is an offence in India. Dalits, who make up nearly 20% of the Indian population, say little has changed despite the government enacting various laws banning caste-based discrimination. ‘He got very angry’ The incident took place in Malikpur village in Morena district in central Madhya Pradesh state. “I made some roti [Indian bread] and took it to my husband who works in a farm. After I had fed him, we had some leftovers which I gave to the dog,” the Dalit woman, Sunita Jatav, said. She said the owner of the dog, Amrutlal Kirari, saw her feeding him. “He got very angry and said ‘You’ve fed my dog, it has become an untouchable now’.” Mrs Jatav said Mr Kirari left the dog, a black mongrel called Sheru, tied to a pole outside her house. On Monday, the village council met and decided that Sheru had been defiled and hence Mr Kirari should be paid 15,000 rupees as compensation, Mrs Jatav alleged.
On Tuesday, she approached the district collector of Morena who ordered an inquiry into the incident. Senior police officer in the area, Baldev Singh, told the BBC that he was investigating the matter. He said Mr Kirari had alleged that after eating the bread, Sheru fell ill. Mr Kirari said he abandoned the dog at Mrs Jatav’s house so she could look after it and nurse it back to health, Mr Singh added. Dalits – formerly untouchables – are considered at the bottom of the Hindu caste system. Any discrimination against them is an offence and punishable by law.
Dalit principal attacked inside chamber
Saturday, 21 July 2012
MADURAI: A dalit principal at a government college in Sivaganga was allegedly attacked inside his chamber.
Even though the accused claimed he attacked the principal as he denied his ward a seat in the institution, the principal said some professors whom he asked to report for duty on time were behind the incident. On June 6, Jagannathan, then heading the physics department of Mannar Duraisingam Government Arts College, Sivaganga, was made acting principal. Talking to TOI, he said he was being targeted by non-dalit professors. "Some of the disciplinary actions introduced by me, according to them, were unacceptable. Some professors were regularly coming late. Even though I raised this issue in meetings, they didn't listen to me. They were angry with me due to this. On July 13, an outsider walked into my room and attacked me with a knife. When I fell down, he attacked me on my left leg. Some attenders soon came to my rescue," said Jagannathan.
S Shankar, the inspector investigating the case, told TOI the police had arrested the accused. "Muthukumar, the accused, is a habitual drunkard. He told us the principal demanded Rs 2,000 from him as bribe for getting a seat for his daughter in the college. When we asked the principal about this, he flatly denied the allegation. He even told us he had no enemies in the college. I don't know why he now comes up with strange reasons like professional enmity," said Shankar.
However, C J Rajan, of People's Watch, a Madurai-based NGO, said the fact-finding team, led by him, found that it was a clear case of atrocity against the dalit.
"The police is supporting the accused and by doing that they are protecting the professors who were involved in the incident. We have clear evidence that Muthukumar was sent to the college by some non-dalit professor to attack the principal," he said..Dalit Killed For Attempting Puja
Dalit officer's room 'cleansed' after retirement
April 07, 2011
Users Write a CommentIn a shocking incident, the office room and furniture used by a senior government official belonging to a Sheduled Caste community were 'cleansed' by sprinkling cowdung water, allegedly by some employees shortly after his retirement from service.
A K Ramakrishnan, who retired as inspector general of registration on March 31, has moved the State Human Rights Commission seeking an inquiry into the incident. He said in his complaint that he had reliable information that some employees in the office sprinkled 'cowdung water' over the tables, chairs and even inside the office car used by him while in service.
He said he believed that the 'cleansing' was performed since he belonged to an SC community and it amounted to violation of his human rights and civil liberties. After registering a case based on the petition, SHRC Chairman Justice N Dhinakar sent a notice to the secretary taxes, seeking a report on the allegation by May 7, an SHRC source said.
Asked about the incident, Ramakrishnan said he would vigorously pursue the case as he considered it as an insult to the socially depressed class. "I take this not just as a personal insult. This is a humiliation heaped on the socially depressed classes as a whole.
If this is the experience of a person who had held the topmost post in a government department, what would be the situation of ordinary people belonging to the lower rungs of social strata?" Ramakrishnan asked mediapersons.
"All these five years when I worked as IG of registration I had bitter experiences. But I have suffered them without getting worked up. But what has happened even after my retirement is really painful," he said.
15-10-2002 Dulina Haryana Atrocity
Dulina — The Long History of Lynching Dalits
Today, in Dalit History we remember the victims of Dulina, Haryana atrocity with immense pain and grief. On October 15, 2002, India witnessed one of the most gruesome atrocities carried out in the name of caste and “cow protection” by the dominant castes in the village of Dulina, in the Jhajjar district of the state of Haryana.
The general public almost assumes that “cow lynchings” are fairly recent phenomena but we must not forget that this practice of lynching Dalits and Muslims publicly has a long history. And in particular, the history of lynching Dalits in multiple ways is thousands of years old.
The state of Haryana is known for frequent and gruesome caste violence perpetrated against Dalits by the dominant communities. Dulina was among them. A few Dalits, whose traditional occupation was skinning dead cows went to purchase skins of buffaloes. One of the animal skin traders purchased the consignment of skins of buffaloes and cows from a licensed skinner. With a couple of other skinners, a vehicle was hired to take their goods to nearby Karnal where they were about to sell it at the wholesale market. The Dulina chowki was en route to their final destination.
This group of skin traders stopped the vehicle midway at a spot not far from the Dulina police station where they allegedly found a dead cow. They begin skinning it in order to add it to their consignment. A group of passerby saw that and assumed that they had killed the cow, took them to the police station. After which the news spread to the close by villages and an unruly mob of people gathered and attacked the police stations where the victims had been kept. They dragged the victims out and violently beat them to death.
The mobs numbered roughly 4000–5000! The killings also took place right before officials — three sub-divisional magistrates, the Deputy Superintendent of Police, the Station Head Officer and about 60 to 70 police personnel who had been sent out there after an emergency call. They seem to have just watched passively.
Subsequently, an enquiry committee was formed comprising entirely of police officials, including those present at the site of the killings. One of the shocking details of this case is that a post-mortem report of the cow was ordered by the superintendent of police and a case filed against the dead Dalits under the Cow Slaughter Act, 1960.
On the heels of an incredible act of violence, where five Dalit people were lynched on the pretext of cow slaughter, one of the leaders of the extremist Hindu group, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Giriraj Kishor, went on to justify these killings of Dalits. “Cow is considered more sacred than human beings in the Puranas (Hindu scriptures)” he said.
However, most accounts of the violence that took place that night were given by the police and remain dubious even to this day. The details and information given by the police related to the skinning of a cow in the middle of the road and the identity of those who sold the consignments to the victims are still questioned. There are several flaws in the versions of the police pertaining to the way in which the incident occurred. Many things didn’t add up. The Banswal Commission that was set up to conduct an enquiry regarding the incident also stated that the police and the city magistrate failed to take necessary steps to avoid the killing. Three administrative officials were prima facie found guilty of not handling the situation correctly and proceedings were initiated against them supervised by the Chief Secretary.
After a prolonged process of enquiry, on 9th August 2010, a district court awarded life imprisonment to seven convicts in the case. As a case filed under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act (a piece of legislation set up to protect people from Dalit and Adivasi communities from violence and discrimination), the case should have been necessarily resolved in an expedited way. Additionally, considering the gravity of the incident, these delays were indefensible. Finally, a judge concluded that the crime was well-planned and premeditated. Out of 30 accused, 7 of them were convicted and found guilty of murder, rioting, trespassing, and other crimes. However, what’s important to note is that despite being a case of severe violence against people from Dalit communities, the case was not tried under the Prevention of Atrocity Act. On the contrary, various religious and social organizations took out a procession in support of the accused and demanded that no action should be taken against them. The support rendered to these men was massive primarily because of the dominant caste background that they belonged to.
The Dulina atrocity caused massive outrage across the country and showed that despite several protective legislations available, Dalits are subjected such brutal violence that left an irreparable impact in the lives of the victims’ families. Most of the families lost their breadwinners with no or limited source to livelihood. In addition, the procedural errors in the manner in which the case was conducted only display the prejudices existing in the judicial system towards Dalits. Most importantly, the Government denied that the killing of five Dalits in the Jhajjar district of Haryana was a deliberate atrocity against Scheduled Castes. Consider that Dalit communities have been forced through a system of caste slavery to remove cow and other carcasses and do leatherwork with the skins of dead cows and buffaloes. Because of this forced labour, they are considered impure, polluted and treated as untouchables. Then consider that they are lynched for doing this same work and that officials then deny that they have been killed for being Dalit. All of this amounts to gross injustice and criminal denial of the truth.
Today, we grieve the death of Dalits killed in Jhajjar. We pledge to stand by the victims and survivors of caste atrocities in their fight for justice.
This post was written for Dalit History Month by Ashwini KP. Ashwini is a researcher and works on issues related to human rights, Dalit women, caste and social exclusion. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dalit scientists face barriers in India’s top science institutes
Despite decades-old inclusion policies, Dalits are systematically underrepresented in science institutes in India
PUBLISHED AUGUST 8, 2021 A student activist showing a placard stating 'Dalit Lives Matter' (Mayank Makhija/NurPhoto via Getty Images) This article originally appeared on Undark.
In the summer of 1976, 26-year-old Raosaheb Kale entered the School of Life Sciences at New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University, alongside about 34 other incoming doctoral students. At the time, a committee of teachers at the school would review the students' records and assign each to a Ph.D. supervisor to mentor them through graduate school. When the school posted the list of assignments, Kale scanned the piece of paper: Every single student, he said, had been matched with a supervisor, except for him.
"Nobody wanted to take me," recalled Kale, who is now 71, sitting on his apartment's balcony in Pune, in western India.
Kale knew why his name was missing: In his class, he was the only one from the Dalit community — formerly known as the untouchables. The teachers didn't want to supervise Dalits, Kale said, because they perceived that Dalits "won't perform well."
Historically, Dalits were considered so low that they fell outside the caste system, a rigid social hierarchy described in ancient Hindu legal texts. Brahmins (priests) occupied the top of the pyramid, followed by the Kshatriyas (warriors), Vaishyas (traders), and then Shudras (artisans) at the bottom. Today, caste, which is defined by family of origin, remains an ever-present reality in Indian culture, and functions somewhat similarly to race in America.
Growing up in the drought-prone Beed district of western India, Kale shared a mud-walled, tin-roofed house with his parents and four younger siblings. Like other Dalits, his parents were unable to own land and barred from entering temples. In his village, Dalits were assigned various jobs such as sweeping streets, supplying firewood, delivering messages, and picking cotton. In return, they received grains, leftover food, or, on very rare occasions, one rupee for a day's labor — well below a livable wage.
When Raosaheb Kale, a member of the Dalit caste, entered graduate school in the 1970s, he was the only student the school did not match with a Ph.D. supervisor. "Nobody wanted to take me," Kale said. In Indian culture today, caste, which is defined by family of origin, functions similarly to race in America. Visual: Ankur Paliwal for Undark
The village was peaceful as long as Dalits followed the Hindu caste hierarchy. "You know your limits," Kale recalled. "The moment lower caste crosses the limit, ignorantly or otherwise," anything can happen, he said. Once, when Kale was a kid, he recalled holding the hand of a higher-caste boy to cross a river in the village. A furor erupted. An older upper-caste person from the village warned parents of both boys that such close contact should never happen again.
Against staggering odds, Kale excelled in academic science. He fought his way through the upper-caste dominated School of Life Sciences, became its dean, and received a prestigious award for his contributions to radiation and cancer biology research. In 2014, he completed his tenure in one of the top academic posts — vice chancellor of a university — in India.
Carey Mulligan on the success of women creators in Hollywood
But his story remains rare. In 2011, around 17 percent of India's population, which now totals over 1.3 billion people, were Dalits, who are officially referred to as "Scheduled Castes" in government records. Caste discrimination is illegal, and India's reservation policy — a form of affirmative action that has been around since 1950 — currently mandates that 15 percent of students and staff at government research and education institutes, with some exceptions, come from the Dalit community. But records obtained by Undark under India's Right to Information Act from some of the country's flagship scientific institutions, along with data from government reports and student groups, reveal a different picture.
At the elite Indian Institutes of Technology in Delhi, Mumbai, Kanpur, Kharagpur, and Madras, the proportion of Dalit researchers admitted to doctoral programs ranged from 6 percent (at IIT Delhi) to 14 percent (at IIT Kharagpur) in 2019, the most recent year obtained by Undark. At the Indian Institute of Science, or IISc, in Bengaluru, 12 percent of researchers admitted to doctoral programs in 2020 were Dalits. And at the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research — a major government research institution — of the 33 laboratories that responded to Undark's data requests, just 12 met the 15 percent threshold.
The numbers are even lower among senior academics. IIT Bombay, in Mumbai, and IIT Delhi had no Dalit professors at all in 2020 — compared with 324 and 218 professors, respectively, in the General Category, which includes upper-caste Hindus and some members of religious minorities, like Muslims. (In India, the term "professor" refers to senior-ranking positions and does not include assistant or associate professors.) IISc had two Dalit professors and 205 General Category professors in 2020. None of the department heads at IISc were Dalit last year. And five out of the seven science schools of Jawaharlal Nehru University did not have a single Dalit professor.
Similar disparities exist in other professions in India; Dalits face continued discrimination and violence from upper-caste people across the country. But researchers who study casteism in science say that even as Dalits have mobilized for their rights, they have encountered distinctive barriers in scientific institutions, which remain especially resistant to reservation policies and other reforms. At a time of growing attention to inequities in global science, those barriers leave Dalits systematically underrepresented in the major research and academic institutes of the world's largest democracy.
Undark sent repeated interview requests to the directors of IISc and five leading IITs. Only one responded, but declined to comment. In interviews, some upper-caste researchers said that finding qualified Dalit researchers can be difficult. "When you'd sit in the interview board, you will find out yourself," said Umesh Kulshrestha, the dean of Jawaharlal Nehru University's School of Environmental Sciences, who is upper caste. Some Dalit candidates "can't answer even easy questions," he said, later adding that he has "some good quality Dalit researchers" in the school. Several other upper-caste researchers simply denied that caste prejudice was common in Indian science, saying that they didn't believe in caste.
But interviews with Dalit scientists and scholars show a different picture — one in which systematic discrimination, institutional barriers, and frequent humiliation make it difficult to thrive at every step of their training.
* * *
Kale was born in 1950 — three years after India became free from British rule, and the same year India's constitution came into force. That constitution abolished untouchability and declared caste discrimination illegal. It also introduced reservation policies in public sector jobs, politics, and education for marginalized communities, including Dalits and Indigenous groups known as Adivasis. By the 1970s, the government had settled on the 15 percent quota for Dalits that's still in place today.
Caste discrimination, however, continued. Sitting on his balcony in Pune, Kale described how casteism followed him on his path to higher education. As a small child, he studied in a public school with only one teacher. When the teacher died of cholera, the school closed. Kale walked to a nearby village every other Sunday to meet the headmaster of a bigger school there and ask when he'd get a new instructor. Eventually, the headmaster, who was Dalit, invited Kale to join his school and stay with him. "He really treated me like his son," said Kale. He would later dedicate his Ph.D. thesis to the headmaster.
When Kale was in the sixth grade, and attending a new school, a teacher invited him over to take special classes at his home. When Kale arrived, the teacher's wife was going to offer him some food in a "tasla" — an iron pan that laborers use to carry mud — instead of a plate. Kale refused both the meal and the classes.
But he kept getting grades so good that he eventually won admission to Milind College of Science — part of a group of colleges founded by Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, a Dalit leader and lawyer who is sometimes compared to Martin Luther King Jr.
In the late 1940s, a couple of years before Milind College opened, the Indian government began planning to set up a network of exclusive technical institutes to train engineers and scientists who would help build a new India. The first branch of the Indian Institute of Technology, or IIT, opened in 1951 near Kharagpur, and the government soon termed the schools "institutions of national importance." At the time, a government committee described advanced scientific research as the work of a "few men of high caliber," the Harvard University anthropologist Ajantha Subramanian writes in "The Caste of Merit," a study of caste and engineering education in India. IITs were highly selective, and upper-caste Indians quickly dominated their ranks, despite the official reservation policies.
In the early 1970s, when Kale was applying to graduate schools, he didn't seriously consider IITs, which he said looked like "closed spaces." Instead, he enrolled in Marathwada University, in Maharashtra state. Part of a wave of new, more democratic state institutions, the university had become a fertile ground for student movements. (It has since been renamed in honor of Ambedkar.) Kale decided to study chemistry, partly because he thought that could get him a job as a chemical engineer in the fast-industrializing country. As the eldest sibling, Kale wanted to support his family as soon as possible. But at same time, he said, "I had an internal desire to get as much education as I can and the highest honorable degree." So instead of heading straight into the workforce, he began considering doctoral programs.
Kale used some of his saved-up scholarship money to buy a train ticket to New Delhi, where he would take the Ph.D. entrance exam for Jawaharlal Nehru University, or JNU, which attracted students for its interdisciplinary approach, and where Kale's battle against institutional casteism would begin.
* * *
A few weeks after the JNU faculty failed to match Kale with a Ph.D. supervisor, they offered him a mentor in a different field from the one he hoped to study. He began contemplating what to do next. He learned that Araga Ramesha Rao, a radiation biology researcher, had worked at a cancer research institute in Mumbai, a field he wanted to pursue. Kale managed to arrange a meeting. After several discussions Rao, who has since died, agreed to supervise the aspiring scientist. He did so, Kale said, despite the advice of an upper-caste colleague who urged Rao to avoid mentoring a Dalit student. (Kale was careful to clarify that various upper-caste colleagues, like Rao, supported him throughout the years.)
Alok Bhattacharya, who later joined the school as an associate professor, and belongs to an upper caste, said experiences like Kale's are not uncommon, and that the only form of discrimination he has observed in his career is that the "lower caste" students faced difficulty in getting a supervisor: "They are the last ones to be picked."
Kale completed his Ph.D. in 1980, and the school hired him as an assistant professor the next year. But Kale had to wait 17 years to become a professor — much slower than some of his upper-caste peers.
Kulshrestha, the dean of the School of Environmental Sciences at JNU, and Pawan Dhar, a professor and former dean of the School of Biotechnology, both said that delays in promotions are common for researchers, irrespective of caste. But Govardhan Wankhede, a Dalit sociologist and former dean of the School of Education at the Mumbai-based Tata Institute of Social Sciences, believes that Dalits tend to face more delays, something he said he has experienced firsthand. According to Dhar, there's little data analysis on caste-based discrimination in promotions — a gap, he said, that he hopes future research will address.
As Kale was waiting on his promotion, he was also waiting to get a lab to advance his research on making radiation therapy more effective in cancer treatment. While administrators gave most of his upper-caste peers their own laboratory space, Kale said, he worked out of a small corner office with broken furniture. When a senior professor vacated his lab to move to a bigger one, Kale declared the space his own. The ploy worked. "You have to have decency for some time, but not beyond certain limit. If it is your right, you have to snatch it," he said. "We cannot wait."
Over the years, Kale held several positions, including dean of students and head of the equal opportunity office at JNU. He would invite Dalit students from his and nearby villages to stay with him, helping them navigate the admissions process for universities. Kale also became the chairperson of the Indian Institute of Dalit Studies in New Delhi, and served on a government committee on Dalit and Adivasi reservation in universities.
Despite his success, all through his career, Kale said, he has feared just one thing — making mistakes. He and several Dalit researchers described experiencing a constant internal pressure to prove themselves in institutions dominated by upper-caste researchers who think Dalits don't deserve to be there. "If I do a mistake, it is not my mistake," said Kale. Instead, he said, it would be labeled "the mistake of the community."
* * *
In the late 1990s, when Kale became a professor at JNU, he sat on a committee to select junior researchers at the Nuclear Science Center, about a mile away from the university in New Delhi. Among the candidates was a Dalit researcher named Rajendra Sonkawade. "He was the best among the lot," recalled Kale. Sonkawade got the job.
Like Kale, Sonkawade had grown up in the western state of Maharashtra and planned to become an engineer. After high school, he applied to some engineering colleges but couldn't score high enough to gain admission. He enrolled instead at Marathwada University, where he excelled in physics.
As Sonkawade worked his way through graduate school, the Dalit movement gained momentum in Indian politics, and the Bahujan Samaj Party, a pro-Dalit political party, rose to power in India's most populous state, Uttar Pradesh.
During the same time, though, India witnessed new opposition by upper-caste Hindus against the reservation policies. In 1990, the Indian government announced that it would implement a commission's recommendation to expand reservation policies to include Other Backward Classes, an official designation for various other marginalized castes. Adding to the existing quotas, the new policy meant that 49.5 percent of seats were now, at least officially, reserved for lower-caste candidates. "Merit in an elitist society is not something inherent," the commission had argued in its report, "but is the consequence of environmental privileges enjoyed by the members of higher castes."
That "ignited a firestorm," Subramanian writes in "The Caste of Merit." "Upper-caste students took to the streets, staging sit-ins; setting up road blockades; and masquerading as vendors, sweepers, and shoe shiners in a graphic depiction of their future reduction to lower-caste labor." More than 60 upper-caste students, many of whom said they were protesting the new policy, died by suicide.
The tension was palpable in educational and research institutes. At the Nuclear Science Center — later renamed the Inter-University Accelerator Center, or IUAC — Sonkawade began to study radiation safety. Often, he said, he would hear some of his upper-caste colleagues say that Dalits were incompetent. Frustrated, he waited for the standard new-employee probationary period to end. Then Sonkawade worked with Dalit and Adivasi researchers in the institute to form an association to represent their rights.
"We became more active with our demands," said Sonkawade, thumping his palm on the table in his office at Shivaji University, in the west Indian city of Kolhapur, where he now teaches physics. On the wall to his right were some photographs, including one of Ambedkar, whom Sonkawade calls his role model.
After forming the association, Sonkawade began to push IUAC to set up a special committee to tackle Dalit and Adivasi issues to ensure implementation of the reservation policy — something required of government-funded institutes, but which the school had not established. His group also asked for the representation of marginalized communities in the governing boards of the institute.
Described by Kale as "the best among the lot" of junior researcher candidates, Rajendra Sonkawade was hired in the 1990s at what is now called the Inter-University Accelerator Center, where he began advocating for the rights of lower-caste researchers. In his office at Shivaji University, a portrait of Dalit leader Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar hangs on the wall next to an image of Mahatma Gandhi. Visual: Ankur Paliwal for Undark
While Kale was tactful in navigating institutional casteism, Sonkawade was more confrontational. His advocacy soon brought him into conflict with the IUAC administration, several of his colleagues said. "He became very unpopular," Debashish Sen, a scientist at IUAC, recalled. Others felt, Sen said, that Sonkawade was operating out of his own self-interest rather than for the betterment of his community.
In interviews, many of Sonkawade's colleagues described him as hard working. But, around the mid-2000s, the scores on Sonkawade's annual performance reports — essential for promotion — began to drop. Sonkawade was overlooking his responsibilities in the lab, said Devesh Kumar Avasthi, a senior scientist who was one of the evaluators of Sonkawade's performance. But Satya Pal Lochab, who oversaw the lab in which Sonkawade worked and also participated in the evaluations, said that his "anti-establishment activities" affected his scores. Eventually, the lagging scores delayed a promotion.
Dinakar Kanjilal and Amit Roy, both former directors of IUAC, said the delay in promotion had nothing to do with caste. In national labs, "I don't see anybody bother about caste," said Kanjilal, who is upper-caste. "They see your contribution."
Feeling harassed, Sonkawade left and joined Shivaji University. Even at his new post, he kept pushing IUAC to recognize that it had owed him a promotion. Although IUAC eventually yielded — and Sonkawade said he won partial backpay. By that point, he said, the promotion "wasn't of any use" for his career. "The whole system was against me," he said. "I paid the price for speaking up." An IUAC employee who used to field discrimination complaints confirmed seeing many cases where Dalits received performance review scores just a few decimal points below the requirement for promotion. The person requested anonymity, fearing reprisal from the institute.
Between 2018 and 2020, Sonkawade was invited to interview for the position of vice chancellor at three universities in Maharashtra, and for the director's position at IUAC. In at least three of those four cases, an upper-caste person was chosen.
After his promotion was delayed due to lower scores on his annual performance reports, Sonkawade joined Shivaji University, where he teaches physics today. A senior scientist who participated in the evaluations said that Sonkawade's "anti-establishment activities" affected his scores. Visual: Ankur Paliwal for Undark
Even as Dalit researchers like Sonkawade and Kale recount fighting against casteism, many upper-caste researchers describe themselves as caste-blind, or beyond caste — a phenomenon, critics say, that has made it more difficult to address ongoing disparities in top scientific institutions.
In 2012, social anthropologist Renny Thomas joined a chemistry laboratory at the Indian Institute of Sciences to study caste dynamics at the institute, arguably India's most elite science university. That year, he interviewed 80 researchers, and later observed a cultural festival celebrated at the institute. Again and again, Thomas found, Brahmin researchers denied that caste existed in their lives or on the campus. "Caste!?? Oh, Please! I have nothing to do with caste," one molecular biologist from a Brahmin family told Thomas, according to a paper he published last year. "It never registered in my mind."
Such claims aren't limited to academic science. In a 2013 paper, University of Delhi sociologist Satish Deshpande argued that for many upper-caste Indians, caste is "a ladder that can now be safely kicked away," but only after they convert those high-caste privileges into other forms of status, such as "property, higher educational credentials, and strongholds in lucrative professions." Many Dalits, Kale said, would also like to forget their caste. But upper-caste people, he added, "don't let us."
Interviews with young Dalit scientists, along with a growing body of academic work, detail the obstacles Dalits still face on their path through scientific training. Those barriers begin early: Just getting into science and engineering education has been a challenging and uncommon choice for Dalit students in the first place, according to Wankhede, the educational sociologist. "Science education is very expensive. Highly inaccessible," he said. Students pay higher tuition rates for science courses than in other areas, because they are required to take additional classes to do experiments. And to keep up with their coursework, science students often pay for instruction in pricey private academies called coaching institutes, something many Dalit families cannot afford.
For those Dalits who make it into elite scientific institutes, cultural barriers remind them of the caste divide. During his time at IISc, Thomas found that his lower-caste and Dalit sources identified reflections of upper caste culture throughout the institute. Thomas focused on the Carnatic music concerts that Brahmin students organized. Traditionally, Carnatic music, a type of classical music, has long been the domain of Brahmins in southern India. In one instance at IISc, after the singer finished her song, the Brahmin audience continued singing, showing their familiarity with the art form, writes Thomas. But such events alienated researchers who were not Brahmin. One saw Carnatic music as a "symbol of domination" and said he preferred "folk songs and songs of resistance by Dalit reformers."
"The mindset remains extraordinarily Brahminical in these elite institutions," said Abha Sur, a historian of science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology who has written about caste and gender in Indian science. That mindset, she added, tacitly aligns itself with caste hierarchy: "There is implicit devaluation of people that continuously erodes their sense of self."
In a predominantly Dalit neighborhood of Mumbai, people gather around a statue of Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar to read their newspapers. Ambedkar, a Dalit leader who founded a group of colleges, is sometimes compared to Martin Luther King Jr. To many, the casteism Ambedkar fought against still exists today. Visual: Ankur Paliwal for Undark
Undark spoke with eight early-career Dalit science researchers who declined to be identified, fearing retaliation from their institutions or harm to their careers. Most described receiving humiliating reminders about using reservation quotas from upper-caste students and teachers, which implied they weren't there on their own merit. Many also said their institutes make no effort to create awareness about casteism, and just overlook it. "It seems that the untouchability still exists, but in a different form," said one student, who's pursuing a Ph.D. in engineering at IISc.
These tensions sometimes bubble into the public eye. In 2007, for example, a government committee found widespread discrimination and harassment against Dalit and Adivasi students at the All India Institute of Medical Science in New Delhi. The humiliation and abuse by upper-caste students was so bad, the committee reported, that Dalit and Adivasi students had moved to the two top floors of their hostels, seeking safety together.
In 2016, Rohith Vemula, a Dalit Ph.D. researcher at Hyderabad University, died by suicide. The press reported that discrimination at the university had contributed to Vemula's death. His loss sparked outrage on several campuses across India and led to the formation of more student organizations like Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle, which offer support to Dalit and other oppressed castes.
In a copy of one 2019 discrimination complaint leaked to Undark, a Dalit Ph.D. student at IISc describes experiencing several instances of caste discrimination. In one incident detailed in the report, the student's supervisor didn't let him enter a lab where cells are grown in a carefully controlled environment, saying he was "not clean." Later, the supervisor justified his actions by saying that the student sometimes scratched his skin. The report alleges that the student's supervisors also kept delaying a critical exam required within two years of starting a Ph.D., saying the student had not gathered enough data. But, the student said in the complaint, other students from the same lab had taken the exam with far less data. The student asked for a transfer to another lab, where he passed the exam and transitioned to a senior fellow position.
Such formal complaints may be relatively rare. Akshay Sawant, an upper-caste member of Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle, a student organization at IIT Bombay, said that discrimination cases remain underreported because students fear retaliation from their upper-caste supervisors. The special Dalit and Adivasi affairs committee at IIT Bombay received only one complaint between 2019 and 2020, which, as of May, was still being investigated. IISc received three complaints in 2020, of which two, as of late April, were unresolved.
Caste divisions occasionally spill over into scientific communities beyond India's borders. Since the mid-1960s, for example, United States policies designed to incentivize the immigration of skilled STEM professionals have led hundreds of thousands of scientists and engineers — most of them upper-caste — to move from India to the U.S. In June 2020, California state regulators sued the technology company Cisco Systems, alleging that two upper-caste supervisors had harassed and discriminated against a Dalit employee. According to the complaint, one of the supervisors had disclosed the engineer's caste to colleagues, telling them he had attended an IIT in India under the country's reservation policy. The complaint also states the engineer was subjected to a hostile work environment and pay discrimination based on his caste. (The hearings have been postponed until September of this year.) A 2016 survey by Equality Labs, a progressive Dalit civil rights organization, found that 67 percent of Dalits in the Indian diaspora in the U.S. reported facing caste-based harassment and discrimination in the workplace. In Silicon Valley, most of the Indians come from institutions "where caste discrimination is rampant," Subramanian wrote in an email to Undark. "Therefore, the entry of caste discrimination into the American tech sector is not in the least bit surprising."
When Kale entered graduate school in the 1970s, there were no Dalit role models for him in science. Fifty years later, many early-career Dalit researchers say the same.
One early-career Dalit scientist willing to speak openly about her experiences is Shalini Mahadev, a researcher pursuing a doctorate in neural and cognitive sciences at the University of Hyderabad, one of India's top-ranked universities. In an interview, Mahadev said she badly wants to see more senior scientists from her community, and to have teachers who can relate to the life experiences of students like her. "Having them in your classroom, in your research, in your lab is something else, because you are coming with so many anxieties, you know," she said. "And you are feeling inefficient all the time."
Mahadev is in her late 30s and grew up in Hyderabad. Her father, who was part of the first generation in his family to go to school, had received an engineering diploma — a specialized course shorter than an undergraduate degree — in order to get a job quickly. Her mother discontinued her studies after marrying young. The family had modest resources, and Mahadev remembers feeling intense pressure to study and perform. Her father told her that he has always lived with a gnawing feeling that he couldn't study more, and that he didn't want her to feel the same way, recalled Mahadev.
After high school, Mahadev took a break to prepare for national examinations to become a doctor. Like many students in India, she turned to coaching institutes that help students prepare for the exam. The atmosphere in these institutes is extremely competitive. On her first day of classes, she said, teachers would ask Dalit students to stand up, while upper-caste students sat in their chairs. The teachers would tell the Dalit students that, even if they didn't study hard or get great marks, they were likely to get admission in medical colleges because of reservation policies — unlike the upper-caste students who needed to study harder.
Standing in the class, Mahadev could feel the eyes of her upper-caste classmates on her. Teachers "are already making people hate me," she remembers thinking. As demeaning incidents piled up, Mahadev said, she began avoiding going to the institute. Eventually, she decided she didn't want to become a doctor. Instead, she chose to study biology, because she liked learning about genes. Later, she became fascinated with neurons. Today, she studies the connection between neurons and the sense of hearing in grasshoppers.
Reminders of caste shadowed her. On campus, she said, upper-caste people would assert their status in subtle ways — through what they wore, how they talked, even how they walked. At one point, when Mahadev was a junior research fellow, another fellow told her that science is not for poor people, she recalled. That broke Mahadev's heart, because it also seemed true to her. In her view, historically, "science was only done by rich people," she said — people who have the time and resources to pursue it. And for Mahadev, time often seemed scarce: Living in a neighborhood on the outskirts of Hyderabad, she spent four to six hours each day commuting via bus between her house and the university, until she could finally get a place in the university hostel.
Many elite institutes have resisted change. In April 2020, following growing criticism in Indian media about the low representation of marginalized communities at IITs, India's Department of Higher Education formed a committee to suggest ways to implement the reservation policy. The committee, in its report, said that because few students from the "reserved category" receive Ph.D.s, few are available to be hired as teachers or researchers. The committee also recommended that IITs, as "institutes of national importance," should be exempted from following the reservation policy in hiring teachers.
In interviews, many upper-caste scientists made similar points about the reservation policy, arguing that reservation for marginalized communities is essential only to a certain level, like admission to doctoral programs, but shouldn't apply at senior positions. Reservation at the level of professors will be "detrimental to the overall academic ecosystem of the country," said Arindam Ghosh, an upper-caste physicist at IISc. Only "capable people with vision," he added, whichever community they are from, should lead research.
But, some Dalit researchers say, sometimes reservation is the only way they get senior positions. Raju Nivarti Gacche, a cancer biologist, said he got his current professor post in the biotechnology department at Savitribai Phule Pune University because it was reserved for Dalits. Gacche has published in top journals, including Oncogenesis, a Nature publication. Still, he said, each time he applied for an un-reserved post, he was rejected.
The argument that reservation undercuts excellence is a "casteist assumption intended to maintain the upper-caste stranglehold of these institutions," said Subramanian. Sundar Sarukkai, a philosopher of science who has written about caste, agreed. "Reservation has to be followed with your eyes shut," he said. "We have not built the kind of maturity and systems to say 'I'm going to take the best person independent of caste.'"
Sarukkai advocates for making science more equitable and inclusive, which he said he thinks could produce "new forms of thinking" about science. Diversity of thought "expands the horizon of scientific investigation," said Rohini Godbole, an upper-caste physicist at IISc. "If we don't tap it, it's going to get lost." Some researchers say that their caste experiences do shape their scientific questions. Vidyadhar Atkore, an ecologist at the Salim Ali Center for Ornithology and Natural History in Coimbatore, said that ecologists from his Dalit community sometimes want their research to intersect with issues related to caste — for example, applying fisheries science to improve the livelihood of marginalized communities. But for that, he added, they need supervisors who "understand their questions" and an academic space to pursue them, which isn't always available.
For Mahadev, even reaching a place where she can do advanced interdisciplinary science still feels determined, to some extent, by her caste. A lot of success, she said, seems to emerge from the kind of environment upper-caste families experience: one in which reading and extracurricular activities are encouraged, and where friends and relatives can offer career advice. "Are parents from marginalized communities able to give that to their children?" she asked. And outside the home, the discrimination and judgements in science institutes make the journey of a Dalit researcher a constant battle. Just speaking up, she said, is a fight.
Sur, the historian of science from MIT, noted that when the Black Lives Matter movement resonated in U.S. science corridors as #ShutDownSTEM last year, it was outside social pressure that drove the changes in scientific communities. In India too, for the current situation to change, she said, scientists would need to join forces with a broader intersectional Dalit movement.
When he spoke with Undark early this year, Kale was reading "Caste," the New York Times-bestselling book by Isabel Wilkerson, a Black American writer who draws parallels between the caste system in India, racial hierarchies in the U.S., and policies in Nazi Germany, arguing that "caste is the infrastructure of our divisions." While Kale discussed these issues back in January, the Indian media continued to report on ongoing atrocities against Dalits, including the rape of a Dalit girl by upper-caste men in September 2020 in northern India.
As Kale reflected on the events, the afternoon sun was descending behind buildings outside the balcony of his apartment. Kale's forehead creased. "I think the society is going backwards," he said. "I am very worried." Kale believes that Dalits and their supporters are fighting hard, but that there have only been small changes.
For a big change, a national-level movement needs to emerge, he said: "We need a storm."
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Ankur Paliwal is an independent journalist who writes about science and inequality. He currently lives in New Delhi.