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Dalits in ‘Hindu Rashtra’

http://kafila.org/2009/03/02/dalits-in-hindu-rashtra/

Posted by: subhash gatade | March 2, 2009

Dalits in ‘Hindu Rashtra’

The Gujarat Earthquake in the year 2001 and the consequent relief and
rehabilitation programme was an eyeopener to the outside world
regarding the deep seated caste bias in the Gujarati community apart
from the much talked about bias against the minorities. There were
reports that at places the relief and rehabilitation work bypassed the
dalits and the Muslims.

Interestingly Babasaheb Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar had asked his followers
to stop Hindu Raj becoming a reality at all costs.

The organised genocide of Muslims in the year 2002 at the behest of
the Sangh Parivar organisations which was aided and abetted by the
Modi government was another occasion when the travails and
tribulations of the dalits came under further scrutiny. While a
section of the dalits cooption in the Hindutva agenda and their
metamorphosis as foot soldiers of the Hindutva brigade was duly
reported, the Varna dominated media did not deem it necessary to
emphasise some related facts. The genocide in Gujarat had also a
little dalit blood accompanying it. The dalits lost 108 lives in
Gujarat, 38 alone in the city of Ahmedabad. Quite a few of these
deaths occurred due to the dalits resisting the Hindutva goons by
siding with hapless Muslims.

1.

WHO EXHUMED THE BODY OF THE TWO PLUS YEAR OLD AND WHY ?
It was the year 2001 when Naresh Solanki’s two and half year old
nephew died. The aggrieved family from Hooda village Palanpur block of
Banaskantha district went and buried him in the community burial
grounds. No sooner they reached home came the news that a Patel
community member from the village had literally exhumed the body of
the child with a tractor. For the powerful Patels who had encroached
on some part of land next to the burial ground had felt offended with
the burial.

It has been more than seven years that the incident took place, the
dalits of Hooda village are still waiting for allotment of some land
for burial from the collector and the village panchayat since then,
but to no avail.It was only last year that one community elder died
the dalits had to carry his body to another village, where fortunately
Dalits there had a separate graveyard. .

But can it be said that the problem of no land even for burials is
limited to Hooda or it is a statewide phenomenon. A report carried by
‘Mail Today’ in the first week of Feb, 2009 had thrown light on the
issue. It tells us that dalits are not allowed to use common burial
grounds and are often forced to use a part of waste land near the
villages as burial grounds. Absence of any legal entitlement forces
them to be pushed out of such lands by dominant upper castes.

A survey conducted by Gujarat Rajya Grampanchayat Samajik Nyay Samiti
Manch found out that ‘[o]ut of 657 villages in Gujarat, 397 villages
do not have any designated land alloted for burial for dalits. Out of
the 260 villages where land has been formally allotted, 94 have seen
encroachments by the dominant castes and in 26 villages it is a
lowlying area and therefore the ground gets waterlogged.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that when the question of
burying the deads comes up, dalits share a strange commonality with
the Muslims. Muslims share similar predicament when they find their
graveyards getting encroached by the dominant classes. Few years back
the Gujarat Highcourt had to intervene and ask the State government to
post police personnel as attempts were on to encroach upon the
graveyard of Muslims in Patan..

2.

TELL YOUR CASTE, LOSE YOUR HOUSE!

If the dead dalits have no place of dignity in ‘Hindu Rashtra’, one
can just imagine the status of the living. One test could be
househunting as a dalit in Ahmedabad - capital of ‘Hindu Rashtra’ in
making.

The general experience is that if a Dalit approaches a upper caste
builder for accommodation, he is either directly discouraged or
tacitly denied.It is immaterial even if the Dalit belongs to a sound
economic background. For the builders and real estate agents, selling
property to even one Dalit family in a society becomes detrimental to
sales.

Perhaps it is a marker of the deeply entrenched Varna/caste mindset,
which has supposedly received new lease of life after the 2002
carnage, one witnesses a unique trend in Ahmedabad where “only Dalit
residential societies - around 300 of them” have come up in recent
years. In a recent study done by the Express reporter he emphasised
that it “.. not a matter of choice, but of compulsion.” (A Dalit? Go
find a Dalit society D P Bhattacharya Ahmedabad, June 17, 2007)”

“Even if a Dalit can afford a flat in areas dominated by the upper
castes, they are often denied by the builders or the seller,” retired
IAS officer P K Valera, who lives in one such Dalit society in
Ramdevnagar, says. Some social scientists say the alienation started
since 1982, after the anti-reservation agitation, but agree that the
caste and class distinctions have become more serious in recent years.
This trend can be seen not only in the walled city but also in the
posh areas of west Ahmedabad like Satellite, Vastrapur, Bodakdev,
Ambavadi. Socio-political scientist Achyut Yagnik says, “There are
more than 300 Dalit societies in the city. In Chandkheda alone, there
are 200 societies, most of which have come up after the 2002 riots
when people moved out from Gomtipur, Bapunagar and Dani limda area.
You will find construction contractors who only build Dalit
societies.”

Of course this near segregation of dalits to specific areas under the
great umbrella of Hindu Unity, does not stop the Sangh Parivar to use
the dalits for their sectarian agenda during elections and riots.Even
a cursory glance at the the list of the dead and wounded in the riots
makes it clear that one finds names of only Muslims and Dalits, rest
of the other castes are nominal.

Interestingly a dalit from outside the state, whose caste surnames are
not identificable in the mainstream apartments, can easily get into
it.

3.

Look the Other Way, While Recruiting Teachers

What is common between all the non-granted schools in Gujarat whose
numbers hovers around 3255 according the website of the Gujarat State
Secondary and Higher Secondary Education Board. A close study of these
schools may reveal many similarities but the foremost thing over which
they seem to be united is to violate the statutroy provisions of the
Education act 1972. None of them follow these provisions of the
Education act. while it is mandatory for such schools to adhere to
norm. End result, only handful of teachers from the scheduled
communities in all these schools

Under the provisions of the education act - 1972, it is mandatory for
all the granted and non-granted schools to abide by the reservation
policy while making recruitments. And the rule says that if any school
is found to be violating its provisions then its registration can be
cancelled. Experience shows that the rule is openly flouted by the
non-granted schools. Interestingly the state government has no qualms
in accepting that they can’t compel the schools to do it as they are
not given any aid.

It was only last year that Indian Express ( Vadodara, May 26, 2008)
carried a big expose about this ongoing scam where ‘Government looks
the other way as schools flout recruitment norms for teachers.’
According to the social justice and empowerment department, which is
supposed to supervise the implementation of the reservation policy,
the simple reason for the statutory provisions of the act being not
implemented is the absence of a roster reservation act.

Question naturally arises why the state has still not deemed it
necessary to take effective steps to stop such malpractice

In fact, a RTI application filed by a leading social worker of Gujrat
enquiring about the no of teachers who have been recruited by the
non-granted schools under the reservation policy, led to this expose
of details.Expressing concern over the state of affairs, the social
worker demanded two things : Cancelling the registration of errant
schools and punishing the officers who have been responsible for
getting the policy implemented.

4.

Handling Atrocities Cases Atrociously

What is the rate of conviction of cases under the Prevention of
Atrocity Act against SC/ST in Gujarat ? It is mere 2.5 per cent while
rate of acquittal is 97.5 per cent. A 23 page confidential report
submitted by the state Social Justice Department to the State Chief
Secretary and legal departments provides glaring examples of
‘mishandling of cases registered under Prevention of Atrocities Act
against SC/ST. (Express, Sep 15, 2006).

The report provides details of how cases are not investigated properly
by the police and the hostile role played by public prosecutors during
time of trials.

- Act clearly stipulates that offence which are registered under this
act cannot be investigated by an officer below the rank of DySP but
more than 4,000 such cases have been investigated by Police Inspector
or Police Sub Inspector.

- Acquittal of the perpetrator because victim not identified as member
of SC or ST community. Reason, not attaching caste certificate of the
victim with the case papers

- Public prosecutors false claims before the courts that act has been
modified by the state government altough it is known that it is a
central act

- Granting of anticipatory bails although there is no such provision
in the act. Interestingly the Parliamentary Committee on SC and ST
affairs had also expressed concern over such anticipatory bails
granted ‘in atrocity cases in the state of Gujarat’.

In fact a detailed and systematic study of 400 judgements done by
Vajibhai Patel, Secretary of Council for Social Justice compelled the
government to work on this 23 page report. This report tells us that
utterly negligent police investigation at both the higher and lower
levels coupled with a distinctly hostile role played by the public
prosecutors is the main reason for the collapse of cases filed under
the atrocities act. It is worth noting that he has meticulously
documented these judgements delivered under this act since April 1,
1995 in the Special Atrocity Courts set up in 16 districts of the
state. The study also blasts the common perception is that the
inefficacy of this law is due to false complaints being lodged or
compromises between the parties, in actuality it is a complicit State
that has rendered the Act toothless.

Perhaps the whole state of affairs was a continuation of the situation
as it existed there.

The National Crime Records Bureau had made an observation few years
back which went unnoticed. Coming to atrocities against Dalits,
Gujarat ranks third in the country after U.P. and Bihar. (Asian Age,
11 April 2003) It’s earlier record also revealed a distrubing picture
of the ‘Vibrant Gujarat’. According to its 1998 report, the total no
of atrocities against dalits in the country were 25,617. Of these,
8894 cases were registered in Gujarat alone. 28 cases of rapes of
dalit women were recorded that year, which was seventh highest in the
country.

But when it came to taking steps to check offences against the SCs and
STs the BJP government did nothing. The special dalit courts envisaged
in all districts under the SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act
1989 were still not a reality. Out of 26 districts of Gujarat, only 10
have been provided with special courts, although none of these 10
courts accord special status to dalit issues, according to Dalit
activists. (same ref.)

5.

Ambedkar’s Prognosis
One can go on belching out statistics about Dalit’s situation as it
exists in the first ‘Hindu Rashtra’ in Secular- Democratic India.
Definitely our aim here is not to present a data bank on this theme.

Our main concern is to raise two points.

- Why the near secondary status granted to the dalits has not become
an important issue in the anti-communal movement ?

- Why a section of dalits still feels enamoured about Hindutva, can it
be said to be sign of its upward mobility within the Hindu religion or
it is a marker of the hatred it had accumulated vis-a-vis the minority
communities and getting ready to play out the Hindutva agenda on its
own also.

It needs to be emphasised here that all over Gujarat one finds
thousands and thousands of boards put at prominent places by one of
the affiliates of the Sangh Parivar that ‘you are entering this or
that locality of Hindu Rashtra’ which is completely illegal and an
open proclamation of ’secession’ from the rest of the society.

At this juncture one thinks of Ambedkar’s prognosis vis-a-vis Hindu
Rajya. In his book ‘Pakistan or Partition of India, page 358) written
before partition of India, he clearly prophesises : “If Hindu Raj
becomes a reality then it would be greatest menace to this country.
Whatever may Hindus say, actually it does not make a difference that
Hinduism is a danger to Independence, Equality and Brotherhood. Thus
it is an enemy of democracy. We should make all out efforts to stop
Hindu Raj from becoming a reality.” ( Pakistan or Partition of India,
Page 358)

Is anybody listening ?