reserved murders

List of Dalit students committing ‘suicide’ in last four years in India’s premier institutions

Here is the list of the Dalit students who have committed suicide in last four years. This is by no means an exhaustive list but covers only those cases which we were able to document and where parents and relatives have raised their voices and had accused the institutions of caste discrimination against their children that led to their suicides.

We are sure that the actual numbers of Dalit students committing suicide in country’s premier institutions in last four years will be much higher.

• M. Shrikant, final year, B.Tech, IIT Bombay, 1st Jan 07

• Ajay S. Chandra, integrated PhD, Indian Institute of Sciences (IISc), Bangalore – 26 Aug, 07

• Jaspreet Singh, final year MBBS, Government Medical College, Chandigarh, 27 Jan 08.

• Senthil Kumar, PHD, School of Physics, University of Hyderabad – 23 Feb 08

 Prashant Kureel, first year, B.Tech, IIT Kanpur, 19 April, 08

• G. Suman, final year, M.Tech, IIT Kanpur, 2nd Jan, 09

• Ankita Veghda, first year, BSc Nursing, Singhi Institute of Nursing, Ahmedabad, 20 April, 09

• D Syam Kumar, first year B.Tech, Sarojini Institute of Engineering and Technology, Vijayawada, 13 Aug, 09

• S. Amravathi, national level young woman boxer, Centre of Excellence, Sports Authority of Andhra Pradesh, Hyderabad, 4th Nov, 09

• Bandi Anusha, B.Com final year, Villa Mary College, Hyderabad, 5th Nov, 09

• Pushpanjali Poorty, first year, MBA, Visvesvaraiah Technological University, Bangalore, 30th Jan, 10

• Sushil Kumar Chaudhary, final year MBBS, Chattrapati Shahuji Maharaj Medical University (formerly KGMC), Lucknow, 31 Jan, 10.

• Balmukund Bharti, final year MBBS, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, 3rd March, 10

• JK Ramesh, second year, BSc, University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore, 1st July, 10

• Madhuri Sale, final year B.Tech, IIT Kanpur, 17th November, 10

• G. Varalakshmi, B.Tech first year, Vignan Engineering College, Hyderabad, 30 Jan, 2011

• Manish Kumar, IIIrd Year B.Tech, IIT Roorkee, 13 Feb, 11

• Linesh Mohan Gawle, PhD, National Institute of Immunology, New Delhi, 16 April, 11

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more on the death of merit blog.

dharmic expressions

vaibahv wasnik’s comment on this pic: and these are going to be life givers. they hate 85 percent of the country, the sc/st/obcs so much that they cannot even tolerate people from these communities as co-doctors. how can these be expected to treat the illnesses of these same people.

kuffir, calls this picture “the ordinary faces of hate.”

i recently read an academic paper which was laboring to make a point about UN recognizing caste as a race issue and trying to decipher the relation and difference between race and caste. this is what this picture made me write “caste is not a sibling of race, it is not even the parent, it is the God of all forms of discriminations.”  just look at those women’s faces, there is no hate, there is only a supreme conviction of righteousness, such pure dharmic expressions. who needs conical masks and nooses, who needs to disguise hate that is so pure that it does not even require the face to contort into a negative expression.

Angadi Theru

Rupesh Kumar, a documentary filmmaker wrote this post for The Roundtable Portal. The ease with which popular culture screws the marginalized psychologically even as it massively thrives on their hard earned money, has made us consider having a separate tab for film and TV reviews on Roundtable, once we reorganize the database. Hope this review on Angadi Theru starts the trend of bringing in more writers sharing their analysis of film culture and its impact on Dalitbahujan.

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Angadi Theru: Soft killing weapon of celluloid

By Rupesh Kumar


Angadi theru’ is the latest offering of Brahmanical experiments in the cultural landscape of Tamil or Indian cinema. Under the pretext of presenting ‘real’ life experiences of Dalits, a casteist capsule bomb is deployed, it is intended to satisfy the Brahmanical mind set of the film maker and aesthetes of upper caste audience on the one hand, and on the other it cultivates images of dalit identities that are deeply disturbing.

Continue reading

Their voice on violence

Violence on the female body and mind, in private and public spaces continues as an endless and thriving phenomenon for women from disenfranchised communities, well into modernity. This is possible only because the state and its institutions as well as civil society sanction it, through action and inaction. Violence on these women is about the bloodcurdling kind; it is also about forms rarely associated with this word: the malnourished female body is the result of selectively failing systems, that they work efficiently for other women indicates the insidious ways in which violence manifests. All societies that render marginalized women undernourished and unhealthy are indeed violent societies.

In these ongoing crimes we are all implicated as perpetrators and abettors.  We devise many ways to hide from this ugly truth about ourselves, and one common ploy is to intellectually distance ourselves from these women –pretend they are on a planet separate from ours and all things happening there can be viewed superficially or ignored all together. At all times keep ourselves pure from that violence, if we do not see, hear, talk or think about it, we can lull our brains into imagining that we play no active role in that violence. Almost attain a spiritual distance! However, some voices do not care for this personal and public deception, increasingly I see these voices belong to Muslim women. I am deeply suspicious of elite women from any community taking up digital and text space espousing the cause of women as they have a tendency to reduce the vast canvas of experience and insights to a pixel of themselves –which leads to caricaturing the women’s experiences they intended to represent. But in contemporary times both elite and other Muslim women have managed to usher in an insurgent intellectual era that is rooted in the lived experiences of the most marginalized in their societies. I also find in their articulation an understanding of politics and its grip on female sexuality, freedom and all things female, more powerful, more realistic than other kinds of female voices attempting the same.

An exceptional observation in the diverse Muslim women’s voices articulating on women’s issues is that they seem to have the rare appreciation of the very obvious but completely ignored fact of human life: high intelligence is required for the survival of the most stressed humans – the marginalized women. Intelligence is deployed in extremely complex ways to retain their humanity while almost perpetually living in soul-destroying conditions. This is brought to light in the sensitive portrayal of the marginalized women’s struggle for a dignified life in stories by authors like the Kannada writer Bhanu Mustaq, in poems by the young Telugu poet Shahjahana, in the intellectual analysis of violence by drawing on personal stories by Muslim women activists working in NGO’s spread across the Muslim world. To the ones who follow the message in their articulation -marginalized women do not require our intelligence to save them; they need us to use it on ourselves to stop being the triggers and abettors of violence. It is we who need corrective measures to lead less violent lives. Can we?

The killing of the prominent Afghan intellectual-activist Meena in the late 80′s left a deep  impact on me, her organization RAWA (Revolutionary Association of Women of  Afghanistan) is the most inspiring model of activism for me, if some readers are  not  familiar with their work, please read here. Closer home, Bhanu Mushtaq’s short stories  brought home the power of the individual to demand change -no matter how alone she was  and how bereft of material possessions. I have had access to very few poems by  Shahjahana that were translated, and I am always looking for more of her amazing  poetry. Other voices further  away from home like Shirin Ebadi, Ayaan Ali, Shirin  Neshat  and many others help  me focus on the psychology of gender violence (both, the  aggression  and resistance). While there are such few insights into the lives of dalit women and their  struggles, I eagerly  and naturally draw from Muslim women’s articulation on aspects of  gender violence.

Thoughts on this topic are on various drafts, I hope to find the time to compile them into a post or posts. Some friends find me naive that I am not taking the whole context in which some of these Muslim women are being heard. That’s OK, if, I am shown other voice/s that situates correctly the marginalized woman as a highly intelligent human and examines analytically the forces and sources of violent actions of society which leave her at its receiving end , then I will reexamine my fixation, until then I am deeply grateful to these powerful and meaningful Muslim women’ s voices.

The Caste Question –Interview with Anupama Rao

[did this post for Insight, liked the book in parts and enjoyed framing the questions, the chapters on caste-gender were interesting, I usually am unable to read the shallow way this topic is dealt with in few other books, but still it remains an under-explored area]

This email Interview with Anupama Rao is largely about her new book, The Caste Question: Dalits and The Politics of Modern India. Anupama Rao is an Associate Professor of South Asian History at Barnard College, New York.

Anu: Anupama, looking at the body of your work it would be easy to refer to you as a caste historian. Can you please give a background to why you chose to pursue this area of research?

AR: Certainly. Let me answer this question by connecting my personal background to a brief intellectual autobiography.

I was introduced to African-American life and literature, and to pan-Africanism, and remember going to visit what is now the Harold Washington Library in downtown Chicago to read the literary and political works of the Harlem Renaissance.

I saw that powerful words were born from painful experiences, and that though the experience of social exclusion was painful, it also gave rise to powerful and potent forms of resistant thought and action. This influenced my decision some years later to study Maharashtra, a place of distant (if ancestral) belonging, but also a region of the sub-continent associated with upper-caste progressivism, and radical anti-caste protest.

By then, I had been exposed to postcolonial theory and colonial critique at the University of Chicago and later, at the University of Michigan, where a profound rethinking of the historical anthropology of South Asia was underway. My participation in a feminist reading group together with exposure to the aggressively masculine cultures of debate and discussion at Chicago, had alerted me to the necessity of gender analysis. Continue reading

To all Chitralekhas

the post below was written for Insight Blog, wrote it in between grant proposals and a dozen deadlines at work, the editor of Insight was busy organizing a meeting, so it went out without any editing. let me be  very clear, i am aware no amount of cyber scribbling is going to change the trauma the Chitralekhas of the dalitbahujan world are subjected to, day in and out. they battle it out alone. they are the warriors.

me and a hundred educated dalit women writing, subverting/ inversing logic is not going to make much difference to their battles. but if i could shut up, some online ‘concerned citizens’ for a few darned minutes, it would be good for my soul. i pray and work for the day when all the dalitbahujan Chitralekhas can write their own story.

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Chitralekha a perceptual divide

Some years back, Chitralekha, a young dalit woman, took a loan to buy an autorickshaw, and began her livelihood as an auto driver in her hometown Payyanur, Kerala.

The trade union organization (CITU) in Payyanur reacted to this with hostility. The history of her struggle with the organization isrecorded here in the archives of the insight magazine.

Chitralekha has ventured into this profession as a woman and a dalit: two non-collapsible identities of otherness. But together it catapults her into an unlit hazard prone road, with directed violence coming at her in unexpected turns and curves. Her auto was burnt down in 2005. A nascent support system rallied around her then, and she was back at work. Last fortnight she was subjected to police violence at the behest of the CITU.

The only remark I would like to make on this fresh incident and the reactions from civil society is: the organization’s current strategy is ensuring no support system springs around her, this time. It is definitely a far more complex campaign than lighting a match to her vehicle.

In this post, I have no wish to debate the details of the case or repeat the rapidly spinning tales around Chitralekha. As I find it deeply offensive and denigrating to all my intersecting identities with Chitralekha -dalit, working woman, wife and mother. Instead, I would like to use parallel anecdotes from the lives of Ruby Bridges, Savitribai Phule, Barbara McClintock and Chitralehka to frame these questions: How are pioneers perceived? And whom does a pioneer facilitate?

The word pioneer has these synonyms: colonist, colonizer, developer, explorer, founder, frontier, settler, guide, homesteader, immigrant, innovator, leader, pathfinder, pilgrim, scout, settler, squatter, and trailblazer. The term’s origin is French and was used to describe foot soldiers that went ahead of the army to dig trenches. Pioneers then were of low status. They took the burnt of brutalities in unknown territories.

Protected walk

Last month, New York State Museum in Albany, had featured a fascinating theme in the painting and photo exhibits section. It was titled: Through the eyes of others! On display were a selection of paintings and photographs of early American life, by European and White American artists.

The physical marginalization of Blacks in each composition, seen visually spoke more eloquently on racism and its manifestations than any thesis. The curator had also interjected a wall into this exhibit, and it contained paintings and photos of Blacks, by Black artists. The perceptual contrast presented here, held me mesmerized, and I had to force myself to respond to my son’s hushed but excited voice saying ‘amma look, that is Ruby Bridges’.

He was racing to view an image he recognized from his school lesson. The Norman Rockwell painting below is of the little girl chosen to be a test for the Brown VS Board of education ruling. It is a stunning rendering of the ‘other’ venturing into a rightful but hostile territory.

picture-35

While my eyes focused on the terrible isolation around an innocent child with schoolbooks, being escorted by tall faceless marshals, my son was pointing to the artist’s capture of the violence directed against this tiny pioneer -a single splattered tomato against the wall. He said ‘grownups threw tomatoes and yelled mean stuff to her, every single day.’ He was recalling and connecting the dots of what he had learnt about this pioneering moment in history.

Back then; the prying open of mighty iron doors had rested on the shoulders of a six-year old girl! Could a child, the most defenseless and vulnerable of ‘others’ in a world run by adults, be a pioneer all by herself? Who became her support system?

Her white teacher had continued teaching her like the classroom was full, ignoring the absence of other students pulled out by parents resisting this move. The state provided her protection, Ruby’s parents and the school did not cave in, and some other parents continued sending their children to the school, unfazed by dominant public opinion. These adults became the few, yet strong crowbars that helped keep the door ajar, while the child Ruby could occupy that space, thus claiming it for all Black children.

Walking away

A few years back, I did my postdoc in a well-known genetics department, and soon received some oral history of one legendary predecessor and ex-alum, Barbara McClintock, Nobel laureate in physiology 1983. Though her work as a student and researcher was highly regarded, no tenure track position was forthcoming, not even from this department where she had spent a significant amount of time conducting complex experiments.

One reason being -the department was all male and there was no precedence of having a female faculty. She headed to another lab and later received her Nobel from there. So there! We could leave this story as one institute losing out to another, its moment in history, for management reasons of yesteryears. However, the department learnt from its colossal mistake and started to evolve as an equitable work place, attracting and retaining female researchers in impressive numbers, since then.

Although she claimed and could not occupy a space, she was the trigger for the transformative change. Despite leaving a vacuum, can we call her a pioneer? I do. In this case, I find the origin of the word, foot soldier, more suitable. She was richly rewarded from elsewhere, but here, she dug the trenches for the rest of us. When I say, rest of us, I mean a small group of women who want to specialize in the fields that this particular department offered. She was not a foot soldier or pioneer, for the math or history or economics department, or brick-making factory, somebody else did that, and may not have had such a quick and powerful impact, on changing the organizations attitudes.

Pioneer Plurality

The above anecdote makes me slice up organizations into before and after phases; for such a pioneer as the ‘first other’ exists in many professions, as there are very few that are truly democratic from the start. Sometimes these phases don’t help much to understand the peculiar and often violent resistance that some women face at their work place. Usually happens when the woman is also gay, or an unwed mother, colored or physically challenged, sometimes a combination of all these ‘others’.

The organization appears to develop strange new weapons forcing an unequipped person to spend extraordinary amount of energy just focused on remaining uninjured. Whereas she was there to do a job, earn a livelihood, she never went there to do battle, either attitudinal or physical. Here, the path cleared by the earlier pathfinders becomes obstructed anew. This makes us look more carefully at representative numbers of organizations before calling them equitable, as single or few pioneers rarely facilitate the spectrum of all the ‘others’.

Striding alone

In the year 1848, the first woman teacher of India, Savitribai Phule began demolishing the millennia old ban on education for Indian women and dalitbahujan, by opening a school for girls and lower castes. This revolutionary move was greeted with verbal abuses and hurling of filthy objects on her person by upper caste people, everyday, as she walked to school. Today’s taken for granted freedom to own space in education, and its consequences by modern Indian women, goes back to this single woman’s unrelenting walk, to teach, in an abusive atmosphere, two centuries ago.

Having paved the way and changing forever how Indian women and the masses access education, one expects such a pioneer to be imprinted on the cultural consciousness of this nation. Strangely, she is not. Any Indian, woman, man or child can easily image Sita or Kasturba, but not Savitribai, as her legacy is not mediated either by popular media or by academic culture.

The mainstream women’s movements in India –one of the direct beneficiaries of this pioneer, don’t fight to keep her memory vibrant. They appear to lend a tacit and silent support to the process of making her invisible, effectively marginalizing her from the rightful place as a preeminent leader of women’s and human rights movement. Does this have to do with Savitribai Phule’s ‘otherness’, of being from a lower caste?

In contrast, the dalitbahujan and their movements have kept her persona alive in their collective memory and writings. Here, I would like to go back to the theme of the photo exhibit ‘through the eyes of others’, which had visually highlighted the perceptual difference of the same elements by different peoples. When spectacular pioneering events come from the marginalized communities, even as the majority benefit from the breaking of barriers to newer horizons, they, with great dexterity work towards erasing the memory of that pioneer event.

The dalitbahujan recall Savitribhai Phule, as a woman of phenomenal courage, who opened up possibilities for the masses of a huge country like India, and in the context of this post, the only word that comes close, is trailblazer. The perceptual divide between the mainstream and the dalitbahujan, of this pioneer woman leader is simply astounding, why is it so?

Amnesiac memory

Perhaps, giving prominence to inspirational events and figures from the downtrodden would mean acknowledging them as a people, in possession of capacities and potential to displace the prevailing hegemony, and move towards an utopian world. The perpetuation of such historic memories perturb their notions of the marginalized people as infinitely exploitable, detestable or as sympathy deserving masses.

Amnesia comes in handy, and mass memory propagating tools being in their control, the majority finds it easy to deal with such uncomfortable memories. It even spares the ‘liberal’ among the majority from self-examination, and keeps the ‘other’ in a state of not becoming too familiar with their own power.

Some memories however, refuse to die down; the oppressed appear to posses an obstinate means of memory retention, which is kept percolating among themselves, long after the majority believes it is has done a neat job of suppressing history.

Lonely drive

If one looked for commonality in the many kinds of pioneers that we see in our daily lives, it would be the opening up of new possibilities. The other common experience is loneliness. Since they are the first among their own kind to take on the establishment, support systems are not easy to come by.

In a personal communication, a dalit activist wrote ‘we have to ask Chitralekha if she would like to be relocated to a city, she has been fighting beasts for so long, she needs some peace’. This was from someone who I know understands the emotional and other costs of relocation.

This suggestion was to me poignant and reminiscent of how Ruby Bridges’ parents must’ve felt, when their child was being shown, a doll in a coffin, as her fate, if she continued going to the white school. The urge to bundle their child within their protective arms and shield her from the vileness of society must have been overwhelming for them.

Right now at Payyanur, a glimpse of the various processes set in motion to stop Chitralehka’s continued challenge to the establishment can be observed. The most fascinating one is the attempt to localize the story, and arrest its possible spread to a wider audience.

The dual purpose of this is evident -isolate her and break her spirit, and simultaneously prevent it from reaching the popular imagination of the dalitbahujan world. A world that is replete with pioneers, all of them breaking barriers in the multitudes of upper caste, male dominated professions, all poised to open possibilities for others, like themselves.

Hence, Chitralekha appears as a visible attack on the well-fed and muscled system. An act that can inspire all other Chitralekha’s across the length and breadth of this country. Therefore her true story has to be contained. The memory of her challenge to hegemony has to be erased, rapidly, at ground zero!

Well, it would seem like this has succeeded at present: as she stands alone, isolated even from her colleagues and local dalits. But this lady here, has overcome a crucial unseen barrier, her story is on its way to become embedded, she is already in the imagination of distantly located dalit men and women, and as I’d earlier said, the dalitbahujan are obstinate rememberers!

At this point, nobody knows whether  Chitralekha will fall into the trench, get a sustained support system, walk away, or emerge as a trailblazer. Chitralekha’s courage to keep fighting the prolonged abusive working atmosphere, without giving in, is typical of most pioneers.

This characteristic, subjects her to ever diminishing value of her personhood, from the organization’s and its ecosystem’s point of view. They are blinded by perceptions of her as an easy victim, whom they have impounded within several layers of impenetrable isolation.

So intoxicated is modern India’s civil society in its comfort zone of seeing her as a devalued human, it remains immune to the existence of opposing perceptions of her. With each torment and her resistance to it, she emerges as a bigger hero for the dalits, and she evolves into an inspirational story for the dalitbahujan.

Lastly, no less than 45% of women in contemporary India are yet to reach literacy levels; to aspire and gain access to education based careers and jobs. Chitralekha as a pioneer in the informal sector of public commute; facilitates by example and grit, the livelihood possibility, for this large number of Indian women.

And a significant number of them are dalitbahujan, in the history of dalitbahujan women’s movement, Chitralekha occupies the space and power that encapsulates the spirit of all the different kinds of pioneers illustrated here.

Image courtesy from here.

Category citizens

 

Wedded to the past? Really?

Usual response to caste system and atrocities by categories of Indian Citizens:

Category a) Literate, employed, salaried, insured persons in urban India:

“Caste system does not exist, untouchability is a bygone phenomenon, used by present day dalits to grab political and economic gains.”

Category a1) Indian academics, the same class of citizenry as above albeit with important sounding verbiage:

Historically, stigmatized subjects have claimed political recognition on the grounds of their experience of violation and vulnerability: historical suffering and the experience of violence have ground claims to rights, recognition, and social redistribution.” 

Category a2) NRI’s to some interested phirang’s curiosity to above article:

a2) “Perhaps, Chapra is not in our country!”

Phirang: “It says 70 km from Patna.”

a2) “Oh Patna, you mean Bihar? Oh that is not India!”

a1) Beloved academia’s take on the same:

The State in Bihar has never existed as a disinterested arbiter, particularly on the issue of land struggle. With its deep feudal character firmly “embedded in caste”,1 Bihar has always remained a party to the conspiracy

Since all we ever hear is from a), a1) and a2) either in popular media or from academia, we could perhaps ask who exactly they are?

1)   citizen a) are you a dalit?

2) citizen a1) are you a musahar?

3) citizen a2) are you a bangi?

What percentage of Indian citizens are likely to be a), a1) and a2) and positively affirm these questions?

To what percentage of a), a1) and Bihar visiting a2) does the state of Bihar not exist? What remote possibility of a), a1) and a2) dying the death of Manoj Kumar Majhi? If the answer is nil, does it mean the state exists for these categories? 

Just who might you all be? In this caste less, atrocities punishable, equal opportunity providing, civilized human dignity guaranteeing, ancient-modern value laden country = Democratic, Socialist, Republic?

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Response to above article from non a) categories of citizens:

b) Landed, political-socio-economic controllers in rural India:

“Salle, Hope it is a lesson for the rest!”

c) The rest:

“What was Manoj Kumar Mahji thinking?”

This, my beloved country!

To free it for the rest of the citizens to breathe, to be human, to sit on a f**king chair without being bloody murdered, to be free of murderers, rapists, greed and power suffused self-glorifying organisms passing for humans -this makes sense “to be absolutely free of the past, requires total revolution, “

And to this bit of correctness: “historical suffering and the experience of violence have ground claims to rights, recognition, and social redistribution

Dear a1) maybe we want to cleanse our souls not with any damn recognition and redistribution at your hands but with blood, maybe this here below comes closer to how we feel.

colonialism hinduism is not a thinking machine nor a body endowed with reasoning faculties. It is violence in its most natural state … and will only yield when confronted with greater violence.”

UN set to treat caste as human rights violation

I want to say, FINALLY! but i think i’ll wait. But i’ll definitely say, Yeah, to Nepal. One small Hindu nation country has the moral courage to acknowledge this ancient but persisting atrocity. 

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Manoj Mitta, TNN 28 September 2009

 

NEW DELHI: If the recent genome study denying the Aryan-Dravidian divide has established the antiquity of caste segregations in marriage, the ongoing session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva looks set to recognize caste-based discrimination as a human rights violation. This, despite India’s opposition and following Nepal’s breaking ranks on the culturally sensitive issue.

Nepal has emerged as the first country from South Asia — the region where untouchability has been traditionally practiced — to declare support for the draft principles and guidelines published by UNHRC four months ago for “effective elimination of discrimination based on work and descent” — the UN terminology for caste inequities.

In a side-event to the session on September 16, Nepalese minister Jeet Bahadur Darjee Gautam said his county welcomed the idea mooted by the UNHRC document to involve “regional and international mechanism, the UN and its organs” to complement national efforts to combat caste discrimination. This is radically different from India’s stated aversion to the internationalization of the caste problem.

Much to India’s embarrassment, Nepal’s statement evoked an immediate endorsement from the office of the UN high commissioner for human rights, Navanethem Pillay, a South African Tamil. Besides calling Nepal’s support “a significant step by a country grappling with this entrenched problem itself”, Pillay’s office said it would “like to encourage other states to follow this commendable example”.

The reference to India was unmistakable especially since Pillay had pressed the issue during her visit to New Delhi in March. Pillay not only asked India to address “its own challenges nationally, but show leadership in combating caste-based discrimination globally”. The granddaughter of an indentured labourer taken to South Africa from a village near Madurai, Pillay recalled that in 2006, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had compared untouchability to apartheid. Adding to India’s discomfiture, Sweden, in its capacity as the president of the Europeon Union, said, “caste-based discrimination and other forms of discrimination based on work and descent is an important priority for EU”. If this issue continues to gather momentum, UNHRC may in a future session adopt the draft principles and guidelines and, to impart greater legal force, send them for adoption to the UN General Assembly.

The draft principles specifically cited caste as one of the grounds on which more than 200 million people in the world suffer discrimination. “This type of discrimination is typically associated with the notion of purity and pollution and practices of untouchability, and is deeply rooted in societies and cultures where this discrimination is practiced,” it said.

Though India succeeded in its efforts to keep caste out of the resolution adopted by the 2001 Durban conference on racism, the issue has since re-emerged in a different guise, without getting drawn into the debate over where caste and race are analogous.

TISS Students take stand against inaction on caste-based atrocities

A rape incident in Beed district of Maharashtra brought some of us together to look into caste-based atrocities, particularly against dalit women, in this State. Many public meetings later, it was decided that a letter expressing our concerns and articulating our demands be sent to relevant government authorities in the State and the Centre as well as various commissions and the media.

Following is the letter, which has been passed in the GBM held on Saturday. Please do sign up for it on the posters that have been put up near both the dining halls and the new campus canteen.

Respected Madam/Sir,

 

We, the students of Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, write this letter to you to condemn caste-based atrocities against Dalits, particularly Dalit women, across the State of Maharashtra.

The immediate context to this letter is the gang rape of a 15-year old dalit girl at the village of Ranjani at Georai taluka in Beed district, Maharashtra on August 23, 2009 by some upper caste men. The trauma of the rape apart, the girl was beaten up by the police and threatened against making a complaint. The FIR was registered only at the instance of the District Magistrate of Beed but even then the crime, clearly a caste-based atrocity, has not been registered under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. About a month into the rape, the accused have also not been arrested.

Incidents of caste-based violence in Beed District are not new and newspapers over the last few months provide evidence of this rising brutality. On August 24, 2009, a dalit man from Malaspimpalgaon was poisoned to death because he refused to beat the drum during the ‘Pola’ festival. Earlier, on June 25, 2009, another dalit man from Phulepimpalgaon at Mazalgaon was murdered by upper caste people. On January 17, 2009, in Shindi village, two Dalit college girls were severely beaten and paraded in the village because they did not respond to lewd remarks by upper caste people.

Organisations working with Dalits in Beed district – Rural Development Centre and Savitribai Phule Mahila Mandal – have found that out of the 247 cases, registered for offences against SC/ST between 2001 and 2008, over 70 such atrocities have been against women.

This data points to a larger incidence of increasing caste based violence against Dalits across the State. Government data shows that the number of atrocities against SCs in the state has gone up from 689 in 2004 to 844 in 2005, 1,001 in 2006 and 1,173 in 2008. (Indian Express; August 5, 2009)

The increasing violence also shows the complicity of the police with people from upper castes in perpetuating atrocities against Dalits, particularly Dalit women. This is clearly seen in the gang-rape of the 15 year old Dalit girl from Beed.

That women bear the brunt of caste-based violence is well documented. Even in this case, the girl was raped and then beaten up by the police when she went to file her complaint, not just because she is a woman but importantly because she is a Dalit. Violence against dalit women, we assert, is to perpetuate and sustain caste superiority. Rape of women from the dalit community is a tool of violence used by upper-castes to maintain their control over marginalized communities.

Therefore, to prevent atrocities and to strengthen security of Dalits, we demand that following action be taken:
1. The case must be registered under the SC/ST (PoA) act.

2. The P.S.I. of Georai police station should be suspended immediately and action taken against him under section 4 of SC/ST (PoA) Act, 1989. The Sarpanch, Police Patil, S.P., D.M. should be held responsible in case of atrocity in their areas, under the same provision.

3. Police have been seen as complicit in caste-based atrocities. Efforts, in the form of training programmes, by the State Government are necessary to ensure that the police act as agents outside of the caste system and ensure safety of the marginalized. It must be ensured that the police do not make victims of caste-based violence more vulnerable.

4. Beed district should be declared as Atrocity Prone Area, a provision under section 17 (1) of the SC/ST (PoA) Act, 1989.

5. A comprehensive review of caste-based atrocities in all districts must be undertaken and those areas which see a high incidence of such atrocities must be declared atrocity prone areas as well.

6. The State should undertake its duty of providing economic and social rehabilitation for victims of all caste based atrocities, as given under section 21 (iii) of the SC/ST (PoA) Act, 1989.

7. A collective fine must be imposed on villages where caste atrocities have been reported, as provided for under section 16 of the Act.

8. In most caste-based atrocities, it has been seen that the police do not register cases against the SC/ST (PoA) Act. It must be made mandatory for the police to register them under this act. Action must be taken against those police officials who do not register it under the Act.

9. Investigation by a special committee on why the gang-rape case at Beed had not been registered under the Act should be undertaken since it could provide indicators to the visible trend of not registering caste-based atrocities under the Act.

10. Caste-based violence against women must be registered under provisions in the SC/ST (PoA) Act and the Indian Penal Code together. This reflects the understanding that violence against women is because they are vulnerable as women and also as members of the dalit communities.

 

Lastly, the State must explore initiatives to encourage collective action among Dalit women for their empowerment and to provide them a safe environment. We would like to add, that we intend to follow the proceedings of this case closely and will be awaiting an urgent response from you, to decide on further action. We hope that the above demands are considered at the earliest so that the confidence of Dalits and the general public in the State is restored.

Alas you will die.

I recall a November day, he was not six months old and the master came into the shack…..

And this man was speculating over my son’s cradle, a slavedriver’s cradle.

MOTHER

Alas you will die.

REBEL

Killed….. I killed him with my own hands……

Yes, a fecund and copious death…….

It was night. We crawled through the sugarcane.

The cutlasses were chortling at the stars, but we didn’t care about the stars.

The cane slashed our faces with streams of green blades.

MOTHER

I had dreamed of a son who would close his mother’s eyes.

REBEL

I chose to open my child’s eyes to another sun.

MOTHER

……O my son…… an evil and pernicious death.

REBEL

Mother, a verdant and sumptuous death.

MOTHER

From too much hate.

REBEL

From too much love.

Spare me, I’m choking from your shackles, bleeding from your wounds.

REBEL

And the world does not spare me…… There is not in the world one single lynched bastard, one poor tortured man, in whom I am not also murdered and humiliated.

MOTHER

God in Heaven, deliver him!

REBEL

My heart, you will not deliver me of my memories……

It was a November night……

And suddenly clamors lit up the silence,

we had leapt, we the slaves, we the manure, we the beasts with patient hooves.

We were running like lunatics, fiery shots broke out……… We were striking. Sweat and blood cooled us off. We were striking amidst the screams and the screams became more strident and a great clamor rose toward the east, the outbuildings were burning and the flames sweetly splashed our cheeks.

Then came the attack on the master’s house.

They were shooting from the windows.

We forced the doors.

The master’s bedroom was wide open. The Master’s bedroom was brilliantly lit, and the master was there, very calm…… and all of us stopped….. he was the master……. I entered. It’s you, he said, very calmly…… Its me, it was indeed me, I told him, the good slave, the faithful slave, the slave slave, and suddenly my eyes were two cockroaches frightened on a rainy day…….. I struck, the blood spurted, it is the only baptism that today I remember.

———

Source: Lyric And Dramatic Poetry. by Aime Cesaire.

Translated by Clayton Eshelman & Annette Gail Smith

Dedicated to Raj Kumar’s Mother