Wednesday, August 25, 2010

[ZESTCaste] Justice, at last


Justice, at last


Seven persons have been awarded life imprisonment in the Dulina Dalit
lynching case, but the battle for justice may not be over.


Some of those convicted, outside the court.

THE long wait for justice by the families of the five Dalit youth who
were lynched on October 15, 2002, at the police post in Dulina village
in Jhajjar district of Haryana is finally over. On August 9, a
district court awarded life imprisonment to seven convicts in the

The Dalits were taken to the police post by a group of people who
accused them of slaughtering a cow on Dasara day. The crowd soon
swelled into a murderous mob and it beat them up in the presence of
senior police officers and officials of the district administration.
The police personnel did not fire a single shot to disperse the
assailants ( Frontline, January 18, 2003).

The case should have been long settled as the crime happened in front
of law-enforcers. But because of the caste identities of the victims
and the perpetrators of the crime, it was clear that the road to
justice was going to be a long one. The State government set up a
commission headed by R.R. Banswal, the then Commissioner of Rohtak
range, to inquire into the circumstances that led to the incident. The
commission report, submitted in December 2002, summed up the sequence
of events and castigated the police. It concluded that the five Dalits
were murdered at the police post. The exhaustive, 383-page report
recommended action against the police officials concerned for
dereliction of duty.

According to Jhajjar District Special Judge A.K. Jain, the crime was
"well planned and premeditated". A total of 30 persons were accused
initially in the lynching case. On August 7, the court found seven of
them guilty under Sections 148 (rioting armed with deadly weapons),
449 (house trespass in order to commit offence), 332 (voluntarily
causing hurt), 353 (assault or criminal force), 302 (punishment for
murder) and 149 (every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence
committed in prosecution of common object) of the Indian Penal Code.
On August 9, the court awarded life imprisonment to them and imposed
on them a fine of Rs.20,000 under Section 302. The accused were also
awarded rigorous imprisonment (RI) for two years under Section 148;
seven years' RI and a fine of Rs.5,000 under Section 449; two years'
RI under Section 332; and two years' RI under Section 353. All
sentences will run concurrently. However, they were acquitted under
relevant sections of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes
(Prevention of Atrocities) Act. The court acquitted the rest of the

On the basis of the evidence on record, the judge noted in his order
that the seven accused (six Jats and one Dalit) – Ranbir, Om Parkash,
Satbir, Ramesh, Shishupal, Jagbir and Sube – dragged the five people
out after breaking open the door of the police lockup, killed them on
the spot and threw the bodies of two into a fire. The order, however,
noted that there was no cogent evidence to prove that the accused set
on fire any building or hut or that the crime in question was
motivated by the caste of the victims. The order said: "On the
contrary, it is apparent that the accused were not even aware of the
caste of the victims…. In this background, no offence is made out
under the S.C. and S.T. (Prevention of Atrocities) Act against the

On the day the judgment was pronounced, a huge crowd gathered outside
the Jhajjar court in support of the accused, reminiscent of the huge
mobilisation on October 16, 2002, to put pressure on the
administration against their arrest. Not a word was uttered in support
of the massacre victims either then or now. Slogans were raised in
support of the cow. According to the report of the then Deputy
Commissioner, Jhajjar, various social and religious organisations
conducted meetings and took out processions through the bazaars of
Jhajjar town and submitted memoranda to the authorities demanding that
no action be taken against the people who had killed the "cow

The mood on August 7 was no less different. All shops in Jhajjar town
downed their shutters protesting against the sentence. At a meeting
held in support of those found guilty, the Jhajjar Gurukul Pradhan
Vijaypal and Haryana Gaushala Sangh president, Acharya Baldev, gave a
call to protect the cow. On August 10, the Jhajjar Gaushala organised
a panchayat to decide a future course of action. It was decided to
hold a bigger meeting in which representatives of khaps, gurukuls and
gaushalas were expected to participate.

At least two of the seven convicts had connections with the Shiv Sena
or the Bharatiya Janta Party. One of them is a former municipal
councillor and president of the district unit of the Shiv Sena. The
other, the pradhan of the Jhajjar Gaushala and a former member of the
BJP, is now associated with the ruling Indian National Lok Dal (INDL).
It may be pertinent here to mention that in the past few years "cow
rescue" operations have intensified, with vigilantes stopping vehicles
suspected to be carrying animals for slaughter. Needless to add, all
these activities have a "communal" subtext to them. The then Deputy
Superintendent of Police (DSP), Narender Singh, stated in his
deposition to the prosecution that "the crowd was agitated
communally". Rajinder Singh, Station House Officer (SHO), Dulina, also
deposed that someone from the mob shouted that "the victims were dhedh
(a derogatory term used for Dalits), they were doing the job like
Muslims and they should not be spared". In his statement as a
prosecution witness, Rajinder Singh said one Mahabir had stood on the
bonnet of his vehicle and announced that the victims were not Muslims
but Hindus who had purchased the carcass of the cow for Rs.200.


A PROTEST in support of the convicts outside the primises.


The blatantly communal and casteist character of the attack was
apparent. Whether the local police colluded with the killers by
remaining passive observers as the five were dragged out from a locked
room, beaten and burnt alive, is a question the families of the
victims are asking. Why did the main building of the police post not
bear any signs of mob violence? Why did the plant pots on the premises
not suffer any damage? Why was it that some policemen sustained only
minor injuries in an attack by a 5,000-strong mob? These are questions
that need to be answered. Dharambir Singh, who was in charge of the
police post at the time of the crime, admitted in his statement that
when he found that it was not a case of cow slaughter, he did not
record the statement of the persons who had made the complaint; nor
did he record the statement of the deceased persons. "I cannot give
any reason for that," he stated.

On October 15, 2002, as the rest of the State was celebrating Dasara,
the festival symbolising the victory of good over evil, for Kailash,
Virender, Tota Ram, Raju and Dayachand, it was business as usual. They
were the main breadwinners of their families. The youngest of them was
17-year-old Raju, a cleaner. Tota Ram, the driver of the vehicle that
was carrying the hides, had four minor children. Kailash had promised
his son, Kamal, that he would return home early to celebrate Dasara.
Engaged in the activity of purchasing, loading and unloading the skins
of dead animals, which members of no other caste would take up, the
five men had landed in Farookhnagar where a cow owned by a Brahmin was
reported dead. They picked up the dead animal from a local contractor,
called Hanif, and attempted to skin the already putrefying carcass.

Interestingly, the Banswal Commission report had expressed doubts
about the very fact that the cow had been skinned on the road, and
that too near a religious institution like the Gurukul of Jhajjar.
Witnesses involved in the skinning trade, who were examined by the
commission, deposed that those in the trade observed the rule that no
skinning would be done after sunset. That there had been a conflict
between some of the police personnel and one of the deceased over
bribes for letting vehicles pass through was also hinted at in the

More interestingly, the five were caught by people returning after the
Dasara festivities, beaten up and handed over to the police at Dulina.
They forced the assistant sub-inspector, who was also a witness for
the prosecution, to register a case of cow slaughter against the five
men. Strangely, the Jhajjar superintendent of police in his report to
the National Human Rights Commission, the State's director-general of
police, and the inspector-general, Rohtak range, withheld the names of
the accused persons and the inquest reports. That it was not a case of
cow slaughter was verified by a team of police persons. The SP stated
that by the time the verification was complete, a violent crowd had
gathered outside the police post. They were shouting slogans such as
"Gau mata ki jai ho", "Gau mata ke hatyaron ko hum nahin chodenge",
"Unhe hamare hawale karo", and "Ham Hindu hain aur tum Hindu nahin
ho". It was equally strange that the magistrates and the police
present there felt that if firing was resorted to, the situation would
worsen and that persuasion was a better method to calm the crowd.
Clearly, their reluctance to open fire resulted in the lynching.

It is surprising that from 6-20 p.m. onwards when the five were handed
over to the police and until 11-10 p.m. when the roadblocks were
removed and the five men were lynched to death, the administration did
not think it wise to fire a single shot in the air. The contradictory
statements of the police did not help the case progress initially.
While the police post in charge and the DSP reportedly described the
mob as having swelled to 3,000, the SHO, the city magistrate and two
other officials gave the figure in hundreds.

Banswal observed in his report that the mob strength was not more than
1,000 and the police strength was sufficient to handle the situation.
He was unable to understand why the SHO, the DSP and the executive
magistrate attempted to convince the crowd that the five were not
Muslims. He also failed to understand why an additional police force
could not reach the spot despite repeated demands by the DSP and the
magistrate, while people could reach the police post from a distance
of more than six kilometres through dirt tracks. Were the police
deliberately disinterested?

According to the post-mortem reports, the Dalits had died of shock and
haemorrhage, their bodies bore multiple injuries and fractures and
their faces were "contused and disfigured" with burns. Kailash was
thrown alive into a fire. The injuries on the three policemen and one
city magistrate were superficial in nature, leading Banswal to
conclude from the medico legal reports that "there was no such serious
confrontation" between the mobsters and the police. The absence of
three names, including that of the chairman of the gaushala, from the
first information report, too, raised serious questions about the
impartiality of the police.

Five witnesses from different castes and occupations examined by the
commission stated that two of the deceased, Virender and Daya Chand,
had told them that the police were in the habit of demanding suvidha
shulk, or convenience tax, from them. Banswal's report concluded that
the police officers and officials had exaggerated the strength of the
mob in order to cover up their lapses. The record of the VT (verbal
transmission) messages showed that the force, to be assembled from
various police stations, was requisitioned only at 9-15 p.m. Another
surprising fact, the report noted, was that the police force from the
police lines of Jhajjar reached the Dulina police post after an hour
and a half covering a distance of 8 km. The SHO took the matter very
lightly, the report noted, and did not think of arranging first aid
for the victims who had already been beaten up once by the mob.

The DSP tried to pacify the mob; the seriousness of the situation was
not conveyed either to the SP or the Deputy Commissioner. "When the
police force present at the police post was equipped with rifles and
cartridges, why were they not ordered to be used? It shows the
callousness on the part of the DSP," the report said.

The five youth were lynched between 9-45 p.m. and 10-15 p.m. on the
night of October 15, 2002. They were brought in at 6-15 p.m. to the
police post, and Banswal noted that there was "sufficient time to
manage and control the situation". The report also included memoranda
received from various organisations. The commission had examined 114

Several organisations and individuals, including the All India
Democratic Women's Association, the Communist Party of India
(Marxist), the Shri Guru Ravi Dass Sabha and the Maharshi Balmiki
Mandir Samiti, condemned the incident and demanded action against the
police personnel. Some others warned the administration of reprisals
if the "wrong" people were arrested. The INLD and the Congress for
some strange reason did not submit any memoranda demanding justice for
the five slain persons.

It is quite possible that the district judge's order will be
challenged in a higher court as mobilisation for this on caste and
communal lines has already begun. In the interest of justice, it is
felt that the government should appeal against the acquittal of the
remaining accused persons so that the right lessons from Dulina are


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[ZESTCaste] Dalit woman beaten to death in Aurangabad district

Dalit woman beaten to death in Aurangabad district
Aurangabad(Bihar), Aug 24 (PTI) A 40-year-old dalit woman was today
beaten to death by some people, suspecting her to be a witch at Belai
village in Aurangabad district, police sources said. The deceased,
identified as Binda Devi was beaten with lathis till she breathed her
last, the sources said. An FIR has been registered at the local police
station against several people, four of them by their name, in
connection with the brutal killing of the dalit woman, they said. Her
body has been sent for post-mortem, they added.PTI CORR KDK RG

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[ZESTCaste] FIRs against minister for anti-dalit remarks

FIRs against minister for anti-dalit remarks

TNN, Aug 25, 2010, 03.29am IST

KENDRAPARA: Agriculture minister Damodar Rout will be interrogated for
the anti-dalit remarks he allegedly made last week.

"We will soon interrogate the minister after two dalit leaders filed
FIRs against him with Kujang (Jagatsinghpur) police. After examining
the contents of the FIRs, police filed case against the minister on
Monday under Section-3 of SC and ST (Atrocity Prevention) Act, 1989.
Police are also examining the videotape of the statement made by the
minister at a public meeting," sub-divisional police officer (SDPO) of
Paradip Santun Das said.

Last Wednesday, Rout had allegedly levelled Jagatsinghpur MP and CPI
leader Bibhu Prasad Tarei, Jagatsinghpur MLA and former minister
Bishnu Das and additional district magistrate Upendra Mallick as
"Harijans", who hatched a conspiracy against him.

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[ZESTCaste] The caste factor


The caste factor

in Bangalore

A conference on caste-based enumeration comes up with valid arguments
in support of the exercise.


DIGVIJAY SINGH, AICC general secretary, and D. Raja, CPI national
secretary, at the release of "Caste Census: Towards an Inclusive
India", in New Delhi on August 5.

THE inclusion of caste in Census 2011 has been a vexed question for
the polity. The uncertainty over the issue has now come to an end with
the Group of Ministers (GoM) on Caste Census giving its consent for
the exercise. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who led the GoM,
announced in the Lok Sabha on August 12 that only the modalities
remained to be sorted out.

In the past few months, caste-based enumeration has been the subject
of opinion columns of newspapers, talk shows on television and
discussions on the Internet. A conference on "Caste Census: Towards an
Inclusive India", held on July 23 at the Centre for the Study of
Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy (CSSEIP) of the National Law
School of India University (NLSIU), Bangalore, provided another forum
to discuss the issue at length. The participants consisted of a
multidisciplinary academic group involved in research on caste and
public policy.

Justice M.N. Rao, Chairperson of the National Commission for Backward
Classes; Dr M. Vijayanunni, former Registrar General and Census
Commissioner of India; Prof. Sukhdeo Thorat, Chairperson of the
University Grants Commission; and Prof. S. Japhet, Director, CSSEIP,
NLSIU, were among the distinguished personalities who participated in
the conference. The group generally was of the opinion that
caste-based enumeration was unavoidable in the Indian context.

However, in a letter to the GoM (published in the Opinion Column of
The Hindu dated August 14), the participants of the conference
objected to its recommendation to conduct caste enumeration at the
biometric data capture stage. Saying that outside agencies are likely
to be involved at this stage, they argued strongly that The Census of
India (or the Office of the Registrar General of India) "is the only
competent agency in the country with the necessary expertise and
experience to undertake this gigantic task".

History of caste census

The last time an Indian census included caste data was in 1931.
According to Vijayanunni, caste data were collected in 1941 as well,
but their tabulation was dropped as a money-saving measure during the
Second World War. Several historians have argued that the inclusion of
caste in the Indian census by the British was an anthropological
exercise to learn about the colonised. In his well-known book Imagined
Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism,
Benedict Anderson has said that the 'census', the 'map' and the
'museum' were ways in which the colonialists learnt about the
colonised. Some historians say that the manner in which caste and
religious data were collected rigidified the otherwise nebulous caste
and religious identities in South Asia.

The 1871 census (the first census exercise in British India) shows how
the colonial census operations categorised certain castes as superior,
intermediate, trading, pastoral, and so on (Memorandum on the Census
of British India 1871-72, page 21, available on the website of La
Trobe University). This clearly legitimised certain caste notions of
superiority and inferiority by the state itself.

Census 1901 reveals an interesting feature: a fall in the number of
'lower castes' compared with past censuses. This was because of a
severe famine in the 1890s. The census report states: "The diminution
in the lower groups is doubtless due to the excessive mortality of
1897 when the administration had to face, and admittedly failed to
solve, the difficult problem of forcing relief upon people who were
reluctant to accept it until they had been reduced to a state of
debility which could end only in death." This is an example of how
caste enumeration can be useful; the 1901 census helped identify which
castes were affected most severely by the famine.

Idea of a casteless society

When India became a republic and adopted its Constitution in 1950, it
was recognised that the nation needed to move towards a casteless
society. But the very fact of 'untouchability' being accepted as a
reality in the Constitution implied that caste was pervasive in
society. The issue came up for a vociferous debate in the Constituent
Assembly. Several members argued that untouchability could be
abolished only if the caste system was done away with.

Promatha Ranjan Thakur, a member of the Constituent Assembly from
Bengal, said on April 29, 1947: "I do not understand how you can
abolish untouchability without abolishing the very caste system.
Untouchability is nothing but the symptom of the disease, namely, the
caste system. It exists as a matter of caste system. I do not
understand how this, in its present form, can be allowed to stand in
the list of fundamental rights. I think the House should consider this
point seriously. Unless we can do away with the caste system
altogether there is no use tinkering with the problem of
untouchability superficially. I have nothing more to say. I hope the
House will consider my suggestion seriously" (Constituent Assembly
debates at

Caste continues to be a pervasive marker of identity in Indian society
today, and there have been mixed opinions in the recent debate on
conducting a caste-based census. For instance, in a scathing piece in
India Today, the sociologist Dipankar Gupta wrote thus about the
demand for conducting a caste-based census: "Our democracy is
determined to show the world that whatever others can do, we can do
worse. If in this process, individual initiatives are killed,
standards lowered, and professional ethics compromised, there is no
cause for worry. We can still sink a lot lower."


AN ENUMERATOR COLLECTING details from a Maleykudia family at Kutlur
village in the Kudremukh National Park area in Karnataka

Caste and polity

There is a visible link between caste identity and political
affiliations in almost all parts of the country. The discipline of
psephology in India is dominated by the analysis of the 'caste'
factor, and its open usage in the media and public forums defeats the
noble idea enshrined in the Constitution. It may be argued that direct
elections and the growth of political parties have helped the growth
of caste consciousness. Over several decades it has also led to what
Christophe Jaffrelot calls, in his work India's Silent Revolution: The
Rise of the Lower Castes in North India, "a genuine democratisation of
India". He says "the social and economic effects of this 'silent
revolution' are bound to multiply in the years to come".

The participants of the conference made this point while arguing that
counting caste will help the nation move towards caste equality and a
caste-free society. They questioned the so-called 'nobility' of not
ascertaining castes leading to the utopian idea of a casteless
society. Said Satish Deshpande, a sociologist at Delhi University:
"Not counting caste has defeated the desire to transcend caste, and
the noble idea of 'caste blindness' should be rejected in favour of a
fresh beginning [of counting caste]." The participants also argued
that "enumerating all castes will allow us to examine whether – and
how – caste continues to affect the distribution of privilege and
disprivilege in our society. It is as important to track how caste
benefits some groups as it is to monitor how it disadvantages other

The strongest point in favour of conducting caste-based census was
that it would help devise an evidence-based social policy. As such,
there is a wide disparity in caste figures, particularly in the number
of Other Backward Classes (it varies from 40 to 52 per cent). The
implementation of several social policies benefiting particular castes
depends on knowing their exact numbers.

It is also true that policy discussions on caste-related issues are
handicapped by a lack of data. Caste-based census, its proponents say,
will generate a reliable and comprehensive database on "issues such as
interrelations between caste and socio-economic condition". This will
also help the judiciary on adjudicating on important measures such as
reservation of government and public sector jobs in States where
reservation has crossed the constitutionally mandated 50 per cent (as
in Tamil Nadu where reservation is 69 per cent). Caste-based census
will also give details on the differences in the socio-economic
conditions of various castes.


MEMBERS OF MERI Jat Hindustani during a demonstration against
caste-based census, at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on July 27.

Procedural difficulties

Responding to the procedural difficulties that might entail the
incorporation of caste in the census, Vijayanunni said the Census
Commission of India was equipped to handle all the procedural and
methodological requirements. He said the issue of including new castes
in the Scheduled Castes list had come up for consideration in the
1990s, but the census establishment did not want to take up the
responsibility because of several factors, including the fact that the
Social Justice Ministry is the nodal ministry to deal with the subject
of caste.

On the stand taken by some people to involve other organisations in
identifying castes, he said the Census Commission of India was "the
only competent agency that can be expected to undertake the all-India
data collection and tabulation exercise required for caste data. The
Social Justice and the Tribal Affairs Ministries, though dealing with
the subject of castes and tribes, do not have the infrastructure,
experience or organisational base to undertake this task, and that is
why collection, tabulation and dissemination of Schedule
Caste-Schedule Tribe [S.C./S.T.] data has been undertaken by the
census all these years."

He also said that the proper time for the collection of caste data was
the population enumeration phase of the census, from February 9 to 28,
2011, and not during the biometric data capture for the National
Population Register. Dismissing doubts about the methodological
hurdles in collecting caste information one by one, Vijayanunni said
the census could be used to collect data for all castes without
confining the data collection exercise to OBCs alone.

Competent authority

The competence of the enumerator to decide whether a person belongs to
the S.C., the S.T., the OBC, or any other category was a contentious
point in the debate.

In fact, a few castes are categorised differently in different States.
The delegates concurred that the enumerator was not the competent
authority to make this distinction and that he or she should enter the
given caste name in the designated column on caste without raising any
objections or argument. The process of verification/classification was
to be done later by census officials, they said.

The participants also agreed that a National Task Force or advisory
group can assist with the identification and consolidation of caste
data (as was done with religion and caste returns for S.C./S.T. groups
in past censuses).

Sceptics say that in a caste-based census, there is the possibility of
upper castes misreporting their caste and claiming to belong to
backward castes or of backward castes inflating their numbers for
political and material benefits. However, the delegates said that
caste being a public identity, it would be difficult for a person to
make spurious claims about one's caste. What they chose to ignore,
however, is that while caste may be a public identity, the process of
collecting census data is a private activity and not one conducted in

Minorities and caste identities

The question of minorities and their caste identities also came up for
discussion. The sociologist Imtiaz Ahmed, whose pioneering work
demonstrated the pervasive consciousness of caste among Muslims,
feared that religious minorities would not be enumerated as having a
caste, thus immediately denying them entry into any category on the
basis of caste. His fears may be valid, but in several States
communities of Muslims (some even in their entirety) are included in
the lists of OBCs or S.Cs.

The conference did not address how caste enumeration will lead to a
casteless society when the proposed caste-based census is already
being pejoratively referred to as Mandal-II. The political upheaval
that such a clear delineation of caste figures would lead to was also
not addressed.

The participants dismissed the criticism that caste-based census would
lead to an increase in caste consciousness or that it will further
caste divisions. Except for a tiny minority, they said, everyone was
aware of his or her caste identity.

The proceedings of the conference were released as a book in New Delhi
on August 5 by Digvijay Singh, general secretary of the All India
Congress Committee, and M. Veerappa Moily, Union Minister for Law and
Justice. The book serves as a useful primer on the issue of
incorporating caste as a category in the census.


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