Monday, May 2, 2011

[ZESTCaste] Caste killing exposes India's secret shame

Caste killing exposes India's secret shame

* Amanda Hodge
* From: The Australian
* April 30, 2011 12:00AM

A MERE 100km from the shiny malls and housing estates of New Delhi,
three upper-caste men murdered a Dalit labourer this week for refusing
to obey an ancient feudal law demanding he toil their land for free.

The body of 42-year-old Karam Chand was then paraded on a bicycle
through the village of Nirgajani, in Uttar Pradesh, as a macabre
warning to other "untouchables" that the writ of a modern state did
not extend into the heart of rural India.

The system of begari -- in which low-caste Indians were obliged to
provide unpaid labour to landed classes -- was officially outlawed by
the Indian government in 1976.

But Chand's death this week was a grim reminder that another, less
shiny India -- a country of poverty, medievalism and caste brutality
-- continues to exist despite the best efforts and indignation of
India's administrative class.

The crime is shocking enough, but perhaps more so because it occurred
in a state ruled by Mayawati -- India's only Dalit chief minister -- a
woman devoted to the emancipation of India's long-abused underclass.

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Indian sociologist and caste crime expert Prem Chowdhry says the very
fact the crime received national media coverage is an indication of
social progress in India.

"Where earlier such attacks would have gone unreported, exposure of
these crimes is really unprecedented today and that's very healthy,"
Professor Chowdhry said.

But, she added, crimes against Dalits and other low-caste Indians were
on the rise as a violent expression of the insecurities of India's
landed classes in the face of rapid modernisation.

"Unfortunately the strictures of society have not kept pace with our
economy and these atrocities against Dalits are an indication of the
insecurities felt by the landed classes in the face of that change.

"Also the Dalits are asserting themselves and are refusing to take
these atrocities inflicted upon them and that has angered the upper

According to reports this week, Chand was attacked after refusing the
demands of three brothers -- former employers -- to help harvest a
wheat crop.

Chand's son Monu, who was working alongside his father on their own
land when the attack occurred, said: "My father refused them because
they didn't pay him anything for earlier work. They had declared that
we would have to follow their order or leave the village."

When he refused, the trio attacked, chasing Chand into a temple, where
he was shot. "They hauled his dead body on to a bicycle and took out a
procession. They were shouting that anyone who defied their order
would be killed," said Monu.

While local police spokesman Jawahar Singh confirmed the son's
account, he insisted "such incidents are far and few between".

But he conceded the village was predominantly a stronghold of the Jat
caste, a group which continues to defend the caste Panchayat system of
local governance, which doles out summary justice, such as honour
killings, for alleged caste crimes.


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