November 28, 2010
Dalit Rights rally in Shimla
Tikender Singh Panwar
THE CPI(M) Himachal Pradesh state committee held a massive rally on
November 15 on the issue of dalit rights. The public meeting was held
at Ambedkar chowk, Shimla in which hundreds of people participated to
launch a movement against social discrimination. The rally was
presided over by Kashmir Thakur. The agenda was placed by Tikender
who is the convenor of the committee constituted for dalit rights.
While discussing the Marxist perspective on the dalit issue, he also
gave a brief summary of the events that preluded this rally. A
comprehensive survey was conducted targeting dalit households which
brought to light an alarming reality of social discrimination.
The other speakers included Rakesh Singha, state secretary of the
Party. He said the issue of caste discrimination and fight for social
justice should not be brushed aside just on the pretext of unity of
the people; it has to be taken head on. He further stated that this
struggle has to be concretely taken up at the lower level where the
survey has been conducted by the units. Kuldeep Singh Tanwar, Kushal
Bhardwaj, Jagat Ram, Vikram Singh from the students front also
addressed the rally. Vijender Mehra conducted the proceedings.
The rally further gave a call to hold a state level convention on
February 6, 2011 at Mandi where different sections of the people would
participate. A forum to fight caste discrimination would be launched
in the convention.
The CPI(M) had conducted a survey through a questionnaire that
asked details about family members, their occupation, land holdings,
education, employment, forms of discrimination etc.
Interestingly, after Punjab the state has the largest percentage of
dalits in the state.
The survey was conducted in 10 districts out of 12. In over 97
panchayats covering 578 villages, 5006 samples were collected. The
results are as follows:
1. The literacy rate among dalits is 70.30 per cent. Amongst women it
is just 59 per cent. The education level is also quite low to the
state average. Of the total educated dalits, 75 per cent have passed
middle school. 15 per cent have completed tenth standard, 5 per cent
have completed senior secondary and just 2.3 per cent are graduates. A
mere 0.5 per cent have technical education.
2. The dalits are either landless or have meagre land. More than
94.86 per cent dalit households are of either small or marginal
peasants. An increasing number of households (5 per cent) have been
pushed to landlessness over a period of last two decades.
3. Occupation: Of the total dalit households surveyed, just 3 per
cent had government employment. 66 per cent of dalits are cultivators,
who work on their own land and also on others; over 3 per cent are
engaged in small industries like blacksmith etc. The percentage of
dependents is high, at 33 per cent. Only 1.5 per cent are pensioners.
4. Houses: Almost 60 per cent of the total households were
kuccha, made of thatched roof with mud. 65 per cent of the households
had to fetch water from a source. Just 35 per cent had tap water
supply. 85 per cent of the villages do not have any dispensary.
5. Roads: Though the government boasts of high road density, the
survey conducted pointed out that 70 per cent of the dalit villages
were without a proper road.
6. Forms of discrimination: There have been varied forms of caste
discrimination including cultural, religious, in eating habits etc.
Over 50 forms of social discrimination were identified in the limited
survey, as large parts of areas could not be approached. Forming a
'succhi rasoi' ie, kitchen in marriages to be run by forward castes in
the marriages of dalits, is almost universal (85 per cent). Different
places of worship and restriction of dalits in village temples is
another common practice of social discrimination. Not allowing the
dalits to work in the household matters like washing utensils, cooking
is also common. Fetching water from common sources is hardly common.
The survey also pointed out different pathways for walking of dalits
in the villages. Even wearing of caps and their different colours is a
form of social discrimination. The dalits are forbidden to wear green
colour 'pahari caps'. They must wear red ones pressed deep into the
head. Discrimination in anganwadis and mid day meal schemes is common.
The deities of dalits are different in villages, but at a few places
there is a common deity. Despite this dalits are not allowed to enter
the temples. However they will be forced to carry and play the band
equipments without being paid a penny for that.
The Party has decided to build a broader platform against these sorts
of discrimination by involving individuals, organisations in this
struggle. A forum for such a struggle will be launched in Mandi.
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