Saturday, February 12, 2011

[ZESTCaste] Dalits Recount Travails in Existing Order

February 13, 2011


Dalits Recount Travails in Existing Order

Vinay Dwivedi

I HAVE been a municipality chairperson, and now my wife is the
chairperson. I have been active in the district for three decades,
first as a student leader and now as a kisan leader. Yet, wherever I
go to a village, I have to take a seat at the end of the cot. The
upper caste people are not able to say anything if I do not wash my
teacup, but they do feel offended. On many occasions, there is an
attempt to hurt and weaken me by asking about my caste.

Prem Narayan Mahaur, a leader of the CPI(M) in Bhind district, thus
gave went to his sense of pain at a two-day workshop recently
organised by the Madhya Pradesh state committee of the party in
Bhopal, the state capital, for its dalit cadre. He said even if we do
not feel weakened when someone asks our caste, the questioner does
feel encouraged that he may try to suppress us. He said not even a
dalit MP or MLA, what to talk of a dalit sarpanch (chairperson), can
get the street repair work done or a handpump installed in a dalit
hamlet. The situation is so dire that doctors of the Bhind district
hospital punished a former dalit MLA when his son asked the doctors in
a loud voice why they were not attending to his patient. The panchayat
secretary in Harichha village beat up a dalit woman and then compelled
her to leave the village. In another village, the husband of the
chairperson, a dalit woman, told an upper caste person that
certification of the latter's application would have to be verified
through on-the-spot inspection. The upper caste people then beat this
dalit man up and got both his hands chopped.

Rambabu Jatav from Gwalior said he is a well-known leader of the
CPI(M) and his wife has been a member of the district panchayat. Yet,
he is unable to sell his ancestral land in a village in Moreina
district, measuring five and a half bighas, simple because this plot
is surrounded by the plots belonging to upper caste people and hence
no one dares come forward to purchase it. Under compulsion, dalit
people in all but two villages of the area have sold their lands off
and migrated to the nearby cities.

Senior CPI(M) leader Jagannath Bharati, a member of its state
committee, described the situation of caste oppression in Indore. He
said Radhakishan Malaviya was a Congress MLA, a Rajya Sabha member and
once the state president of the Congress party, but yet his son had to
dismount from his horse in Datoda village when Malaviya took his son's
marriage procession there.

Baijnath Pippal from Moreina said quarrels often take place over the
presence of a horse or a music band in a dalit's marriage procession.
Quite common are the tactics of reaping the crops standing on dalits'
lands, vandalising their houses and stealing their cattle, in order to
compel them to give up their lands. More than half of the dalits who
had some land 20 years ago are landless now. Cooperative societies too
discriminate against these people in providing them fertilisers, seeds
or loans, instead of extending them protection. Most of the books they
get are out of syllabus. Banks do not open their accounts for long
periods --- so much so that the scholarship cheques that they get are
often lost or get outdated. The plight of dalit hostels is quite
pathetic. Their kitchens have been handed over to contractors.
Children do not get the food that is mentioned in the menu. There are
no latrines in dalit habitations; in the dark of the night women often
go to the railway line to relieve themselves and now and then a woman
comes under a running train. Dalit women are subjected to all kinds of
atrocities. Elected dalit representatives are not much better either.
A dalit woman was elected chairman of the district panchayat, but she
has not to date got the car due to her. Whenever government officials
visit a village with a dalit sarpanch, the latter is called to the
Patel's house. An example of the continuing practice of untouchability
is that dalits were not allowed to enter the Basiaya Mata temple when
they brought a new dress for the goddess. When this became a hot
issue, the CSP intervened and there was a compromise that dalits must
hand the cloth over to the pujari of the temple who would then dress
the goddess. Dalits were still not allowed to enter the temple.

According to Pappu Ahirwar from Guna district, if the ghada (earthen
water-pot) of a dalit accidentally touches that of an upper caste
person, the latter breaks his ghada and charges its price from the
concerned dalit. Though Guna is the home district of former chief
minister Digvijay Singh, the system of a separate water pitcher and
separate teacups is still in vogue in the teashop at Painchi village
in the district. The same was the situation in Chanchaura village till
recently; after protests, dalits now get tea in disposable cups here.
Dalit woman don't have the courage to sit down on the floor in
presence of an upper caste person.

Narayan Bhaskar from Shahdol said there are separate bathing ghats
downstream for dalit masses. Dalit habitation in a village is quite
apart from the other houses. Dalits cannot pass in front of a caste
Hindu house and have to dismount from their bicycles whenever they
come here.

Another activist from Moreina district complained of anti-dalit
discrimination in government offices. There one sees separate water
pitchers for dalit people. Unions too do not treat dalit employees on
an equal footing. The latter still feel a distance between themselves
and their leaders.

Balwant Soni from the same district said dalits have not yet got
physical possession of the lands for which they got the pattas under
dalit agenda. Though the Ladli, Lakshmi and some other schemes extend
assistance for a girl's marriage at or after 18 years of age, the
harsh fact is that a dalit is compelled to arrange his daughter's
marriage at 15 or 14 in order to save her from molestation. He is
afraid even of sending his daughters to a school, more so if the
school is outside the village.

Kamal Singh from Gwalior said dalit women do not dare to take water
from a public handpump till caste Hindu women get their pitchers
filled up and go away. Their plight is particularly bad in summers
when the water level goes down and handpumps cannot fetch water up.

An activist from Ratlam said the plight of dalit children's education
is quite pathetic. They are enrolled in schools but there is no
arrangement for them to attend classes. Contracts for mid-day meal
have been doled out to NGOs which never provide food as per the menu.
Though the promise was to disburse the scholarships by November 30,
they had not been disbursed by the January end. In private schools,
either the dalit scholarship forms are not filled up or the schools
themselves devour the money. Authorities demand domicile and other
certificates pertaining to as far back as 1950 before issuing a caste
certificate. The landless, in particular, are unable to provide the
same. Though the government is making a hype of its bicycle donation
scheme, it issues only Rs 2,300 to a dalit child for purchasing one,
while the least a bicycle costs is Rs 3,000. Similarly, a dalit girl
is given Rs 90 for a uniform and Rs 10 for a footwear, but these
amounts are totally inadequate for these things. As for books, only a
few of them are available; most of them are not. Concerned teachers
are penalised if students get these books from the market.

Hanumant Rao from Bhopal said in Khajuri village, only 5 km from the
state capital, separate cups and pitchers are there for dalit
customers in teashops. In Chhatarpur, Rao's own district, dalits
cannot enter a temple. They have to perform a puja from 20 feet away.

Ganesh Ram from Ashok Nagar said dalit streets in villages are never
cleaned. Caste Hindus are in possession of the lands that were
allotted to dalit people. The sad plight of elected dalit
representatives is evident from the fact that while the panchayat
secretary and others perpetrated frauds in Sirsi village, the dalit
sarpanch was forced to give his thumb impression on the records. Now
he has been charged with embezzlement of Rs 1.5 lakh and he will have
to sell his land, measuring 5.5 acres, to make the loss good.

Jitendra Riparia from Bhind said there are no latrines in dalit
hamlets; liquor shops are of course quite nearby. There are no
electricity polls in these hamlets and the inhabitants have to arrange
wires for a mile or two to get power. For this too, they have to pay
to the caste Hindus. They have also to pay electricity bills of 700 or
800 rupees even while no polls are there.

Vinod from Anooppur said municipal dalit employees are not allowed to
enter the office of the municipality except on the salary distribution
day. Caste Hindus are driving the vehicles that were given to dalit
people under the Anta-Vyavasayi scheme.

Jugal Kishore Pippal presided over the workshop which 33 dalit
activists of the party from 13 districts attended.

While deciding to intensify the campaign against caste oppression, the
workshop decided to organise a state-level broad-based convention in
Bhopal on February 13 on the issue. Before that, all the units of the
CPI(M) would organise padayatras in dalit habitations all over the
state. Later, one-day conventions of dalit women at the block level
will also be organised. A two-day workshop of dalit students will also
be planned.


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