India’s top court cracks down on tradition of “honour killings”

22/04/2011

20 Apr 2011 15:02

Source: Trustlaw // Nita Bhalla

honour killingsThe bodies of Sunita Devi (L), 21, and her partner Jasbir Singh, 22, lie on the ground after they were killed by villagers in an “honour killing” in Ballah village in the northern Indian state of Haryana. REUTERS/Stringer

    By Nita Bhalla

    NEW DELHI (TrustLaw) – India’s Supreme Court has called for an end to customary practices which promote “honour killings”, saying the brutal tradition of parents killing their children to protect their so-called reputation is “barbaric” and “shameful”.

    Khap Panchayats — community groups comprising elderly men which set the rules in Indian villages in regions such as Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan — are often seen as instigating such murders in these highly traditional regions. Yet these village councils have no legal sanction.

    Activists say cases of families lynching men and women,who engage in relationships with those of a different caste or religion, to salvage their perceived honour are widespread in India’s conservative northwestern belt.

    “We have in recent years heard of Khap Panchayats which often decree or encourage honour killings or other atrocities on men and women of different castes or religion, who wish to get married or have been married …” said a bench comprising of Justices Markandeya Katju and Gyan Sudha Misra on Tuesday.

    “We are of the opinion that this is wholly illegal and has to be ruthlessly stamped out,” said the two judges who were hearing a case of caste discrimination.

    Any opposition to Khap Panchayats diktats are met with harsh punishment, including public beatings or ostracism. Political parties rarely speak out against these councils which form a major vote bloc for many of them.

    Despite India’s rapid modernisation and growing cosmopolitanism, which has been driven by accelerated economic growth, discrimination against low-caste communities known as Dalits and minority faiths such as Muslims persists in this predominately Hindu country.

    The intermingling of caste and religion remains a taboo — not only for largely rural illiterate populations, who have lived under a system of feudalism for centuries, but even for educated, well-off families in urban India.

    In May last year, India’s media highlighted the case of 22-year-old journalist Nirupama Pathak who allegedly was killed by her mother in their home in the eastern state of Jharkhand, after she was found to be pregnant by her lower caste boyfriend.

    India’s top court judges have now directed all administrative and police departments to ensure that couples in such relationships are not harassed or subjected to violence, adding that inter-caste marriages are in the national interest and would help dismantle India’s age-old caste system.

    “There is nothing honourable in such killings, and in fact they are nothing but barbaric and shameful acts of murder committed by brutal, feudal-minded persons who deserve punishment,” said the judgement. “Only in this way can we stamp out such acts of barbarism.”

http://www.trust.org/trustlaw/news/indias-top-court-cracks-down-on-tradition-of-honour-killings


Fake Charge on Prof.Shivabasavaiah fantasm of untouchability-ದಲಿತ ನೌಕರರ ವಿರುದ್ಧ ಸುಶಿಕ್ಷಿತ ಅಸ್ಪಶತಾಚರಣೆ!

10/03/2011

ದಲಿತ ನೌಕರರ ವಿರುದ್ಧ ಸುಶಿಕ್ಷಿತ ಅಸ್ಪಶತಾಚರಣೆ!

ಶುಕ್ರವಾರ – ಮಾರ್ಚ್ -11-2011

ಮಾನ್ಯರೆ ಒಂದಂತೂ ನಿಜ, ಈ ಪ್ರಪಂಚದಲ್ಲಿ ದಲಿತನಾಗಿ ಹುಟ್ಟಬಾರದು. ಅದೇ ಹುಟ್ಟಿ ಸಣ್ಣ ಪುಟ್ಟ ತಪ್ಪುಮಾಡಿ ದರಂತೂ ಅಥವಾ ಆರೋಪ ಬಂದರಂತೂ ಅವನ ಕಥೆ ಮುಗಿದಂತೆಯೆ. ಮೈಸೂರು ವಿ.ವಿ. ಪ್ರಾಧ್ಯಾಪಕ ಶಿವಬಸವಯ್ಯನವರ ವಿಷಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಆಗುತ್ತಿರುವುದು ಇದೇ. ಅಂದಹಾಗೆ ಇದು ಶಿವಬಸವಯ್ಯನವರೊಬ್ಬರ ಕಥೆಯಲ್ಲ. ದಲಿತರ ವಿಷಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಹಿಂದೆ ಇಂತಹದ್ದು ಹಲವಾರು ನಡೆದಿವೆ. ಉದಾಹರಣೆಗೆ ಹೇಳುವುದಾದರೆ ಬೂಸಾ ಪ್ರಕರಣಕ್ಕೆ ಸಂಬಂಧ ಪಟ್ಟಂತೆ ದಿ.ಬಿ. ಬಸವಲಿಂಗಪ್ಪನವರ ರಾಜೀನಾಮೆ ಪಡೆದದ್ದು, ಕಾಪಿ ಹಗರಣದಲ್ಲಿ ಮಾಜಿ ಸಚಿವ ಬಿ.ಸೋಮಶೇಖರ್‌ರವರ ರಾಜೀನಾಮೆ ಪಡೆದದ್ದು, ಇತ್ತೀಚಿನ 2ಜಿ ಸ್ಪೆಕ್ಟ್ರಂ ಪ್ರಕರಣ. 

ಅಬ್ಬಾ ಹೇಳುತ್ತಾ ಹೋದರೆ ಅದೆಷ್ಟು ದಲಿತ ಮಂತ್ರಿಗಳು, ಆಧಿಕಾರಿಗಳು, ಪ್ರಾಧ್ಯಾಪಕರು, ಶಿಕ್ಷಕರು, ನೌಕರರು ಇಂತಹ ವ್ಯವಸ್ಥಿತ ಕುತಂತ್ರಿ ಅಸ್ಪಶತಾಚರಣೆಗೆ ಒಳಪಟ್ಟಿದ್ದಾರೆಯೋ? ಒಂದಂತು ನಿಜ . ಇವರೆಲ್ಲರ ವಿರುದ್ಧ ತಕ್ಷಣ ಕ್ರಮ ಕೈಗೊಳ್ಳಲಾಗಿದೆ. ಬಂಧಿಸಿ ಜೈಲಿಗೆ ಅಟ್ಟಲಾಗಿದೆ! ಆದರೆ? ಮಾಜಿ ಪ್ರದಾನಿ ದಿ. ರಾಜೀವ್ ಗಾಂಧಿ ಮತ್ತವರ ಕುಟುಂಬ ಬೋಫೋರ್ಸ್‌ನಂತಹ ಬೃಹತ್ ಹಗರಣದಲ್ಲಿ ಪಾಲ್ಗೊಂಡರೂ ಅವರಿಗೆ ಶಿಕ್ಷೆಯಾ ಗಲೇ ಇಲ್ಲ! ಶಿಕ್ಷೆ ಇರಲಿ ಪ್ರಕರಣವನ್ನೇ ಮುಚ್ಚಿಹಾಕಲಾ ಯಿತು! ಮಾಜಿ ಉಪ ಪ್ರಧಾನಿ ಲಾಲ್‌ಕೃಷ್ಣಅಡ್ವಾಣಿ ಬಾಬ್ರಿ ಮಸೀದಿ ಧ್ವಂಸ ಪ್ರಕರಣದಲ್ಲಿ ಆರೋಪಿಯಾ ದರೂ ಅವರು ಆಧಿಕಾರದ ಮೇಲೆ ಅಧಿಕಾರ ಪಡೆ ಯುತ್ತಾ ಮನ್ನುಗ್ಗಿದರು. ಅದೇ ದಲಿತ ವರ್ಗಕ್ಕೆ ಸೇರಿದ ಬಂಗಾರು ಲಕ್ಷ್ಮಣ್? ಲಂಚ ಪ್ರಕರಣದಲ್ಲಿ ನೇಪಥ್ಯಕ್ಕೆ ಸರಿದರು!

ಒಂದು ದಾಖಲೆಯ ಪ್ರಕಾರ ಲೋಕಾಯುಕ್ತರ ಬಲೆಗೆ ಬಹುತೇಕ ಬೀಳುವವರು ಅಥವಾ ಬೀಳಿಸಲ್ಪಡುವವರು ದಲಿತ ನೌಕರರು! ಹಾಗಂತ ಸ್ವತಃ ವಿಧಾನ ಪರಿಷತ್ತಿನ ವಿರೋಧ ಪಕ್ಷದ ನಾಯಕಿ ಮೋಟಮ್ಮನವರೇ ಹೇಳಿ ದ್ದಾರೆ. ಹಾಗಿದ್ದರೆ ದಲಿತರು ಮಾತ್ರ ಭ್ರಷ್ಟರೇ? ದಲಿತರು ಮಾತ್ರ ವಿಷಯ ಲಂಪಟರೇ? ದಲಿತರು ಮಾಡಿದ್ದು ಮಾತ್ರ ಅಪರಾಧವೇ? ಇತ್ತೀಚಿನ ಬೆಳವಣಿ ಗೆಗಳನ್ನು ನೋಡಿದರೆ ಹಾಗೆಯೇ ಅನಿಸುತ್ತಿದೆ.

ಯಾಕೆಂದರೆ 1.7 ಲಕ್ಷ ಕೋಟಿಯಂತಹ ಬೃಹತ್ ಹಗರಣದಲ್ಲಿ ಯಕಶ್ಚಿತ್ ಒಬ್ಬ ಮಂತ್ರಿ ದಲಿತ ವರ್ಗಕ್ಕೆ ಸೇರಿದೆ. ಎ.ರಾಜ ಬಲಿಯಾಗುತ್ತಾರೆ. ಆದರೆ ಅರುಣ್ ಶೌರಿ, ಧಯಾನಿಧಿ ಮಾರನ್, ನೀರಾ ರಾಡಿಯಾ, ಅನಂತ್ ಕುಮಾರ್ ಇವರೆಲ್ಲ? ರಾಜಾರೋಷವಾಗಿ ಓಡಾಡುತ್ತಾರೆ! ರೇಣುಕಾಚಾರ್ಯರಂತಹವರು ಲಜ್ಜೆಗೆಟ್ಟು ಬಹಿರಂಗವಾಗಿ ಮುತ್ತುಕೊಡುವಂತಹ ಹಗರಣದಲ್ಲಿ ಸಿಕ್ಕಿಬಿದ್ದರೂ ಮಂತ್ರಿಗಳಾಗುತ್ತಾರೆ! ವಾಸ್ತವ ಹೀಗಿರಬೇಕಾ ದರೆ ಶಿವಬಸವಯ್ಯನಂತಹವರು ಮಾಡಿದ ತಪ್ಪಾದರೂ ಏನು? ದಲಿತರಾಗಿ ಹುಟ್ಟಿದ್ದು! ಅಕಸ್ಮಾತ್ ಇವರೇನಾ ದರೂ ಮೇಲ್ವರ್ಗದಲ್ಲಿ ಹುಟ್ಟಿದ್ದರೆ ಇಷ್ಟೊತ್ತಿಗಾಗಲೇ ಅವರನ್ನು ರಕ್ಷಿಸುವ ಕಾರ್ಯ ಭರದಿಂದ ನಡೆದಿರುತಿತ್ತು! ಆದರೆ ಈಗ? ದಲಿತ ವರ್ಗಕ್ಕೆ ಸೇರಿದ ಶಿವಬಸವಯ್ಯ ನವರನ್ನು ಹಿಂದು ಮುಂದು ನೋಡದೆ ತಕ್ಷಣ ಅಮಾನತು ಮಾಡಲಾಗಿದೆ. ಜೈಲಿಗೆ ಅಟ್ಟಲಾಗಿದೆ! ದಲಿತ ನೌಕರರ ವಿರುದ್ಧ ವ್ಯವಸ್ಥಿತ ಮತ್ತು ಸುಶಿಕ್ಷಿತ ಅಸ್ಪಶತಾಚರಣೆ ಎಂದರೆ ಇದೇ ಅಲ್ಲವೇ?

-ರಘೋತ್ತಮ ಹೊ.ಬ

ಚಾಮರಾಜನಗರ

 


Why the Dalits of Maharashtra were so angry?

16/01/2011

In the month of 50th Death Anniversary of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar the nation is witnessing a sudden and sporadic militant protests of Dalits in Maharashtra. Firstly, they demonstrated their deep anger against the heinous killing of a Dalit Family in Khairlangi village, and, recently, on last Thursday the Dalits of Maharashtra again come out on the streets to protest against the felonious act of desecration of Babasaheb Ambedkar’s statue which took place at Kanpur. On both the events, the protests were spontaneous, unorganized and without any concrete political intervention. And on both the occasions, it has invoked divergent responses by Media, Intellectuals and the State. The need of the hour is to take a deep look into the churning of Dalit Movement in India , instead of focusing on mere sporadic events. Responding over the recent protest, the Maharashtra government portrayed the protest as a Naxalite design, thus enabling itself to use coercive force against Dalit Activits and social groups. Secondly, the media wanted to project both the protests as a deliberate political game in which the opposition only wanted to fuel this fire to capitalize the Dalit votes in forth coming elections. Further criticizing the people’s uproar, Media labeled them as lumpen elements whose only desire is to destruct the state property. Some observers criticized the Dalit political leadership of Maharashtra (especially Republican Party of India), arguing that it is their failure which is responsible for the decline of the Dalit movement and for such a degraded and chaotic situation in the state. Another aspect which is coming in picture is about the caste conflict among the high and low castes, arguing that Maharashtra is no different from any other state and caste atrocities and discrimination against Dalits has also become a norm here.

In all these observations there is no response to why then even in such adverse socio-political conditions and against a casteist and coercive State, Dalits throughout Maharashtra came out openly on streets and protested in such large numbers. Cases of rape, murder, discrimination and violation of human rights against Dalits are rampant and have become a norm in India. Why then such kinds of protests or demonstrations do not happen in other parts of the country where the political consciousness and Dalit leadership is comparatively better than Maharashtra? Why did only the Dalits in Maharashtra agitate with such fury and not in Uttar Pradesh or in Madhya Pradesh where the Dalit population is comparatively higher than that of Maharashtra? (The Dalit Population in Maharashtra is mere 10.2% compare to 24% in Uttar Pradesh) What is the difference between the Dalits of Maharashtra and the Dalits in the rest of the country? In Maharashtra the Dalits represent a robust socio-cultural identity and a relatively dignified social position which creates strong communitarian bond. They represent an uncompromising socio-political ideology and a social consciousness to build an ideal society because of which they are in the forefront of struggle against every kind of adversity against them.
The assertion of Dalits in every part of the country has to meet the castiest Brahmanical onslaught. The upper caste, even after fifty-six years of modern democracy, in India has failed to accept the fact that the Dalits are humans. Their mind is not ready to accept that the people who till yesterday were untouchables and their slaves, today are sharing corridors of power, are coming forward into the field of education and progressing equally with them. They see it as the breakdown of their age old caste superiority, rich tradition and attack over the Brahmanical social values. The only way to stop the progress of Dalits is perpetuating caste violence and naked atrocities against them. Considering them to be poor and in minority, they believe that the Dalits will never rise to avenge themselves and will desist to compare themselves with the upper castes. In the light of such observations, Maharashtra is no exception. The political, social, cultural and economic progress of the Dalits has witnessed a reactionary attack by the upper castes here as well. But here, against every act of injustice on caste lines, the Dalit masses react with a heroic militancy and show a strong and committed zeal to ensure justice against caste oppressions.

Firstly, in Maharashtra, the Dalits’ Conversion to Buddhism has created a unique psychological and cultural space for them on which an independent assertion of their moral and historic identity is under construction. Here the Dalits have produced a vibrant and cohesive social atmosphere by adopting Buddhist moral values, symbols and socio-cultural practices in their day-to-day life against unscientific and obscurantist Hindu rituals. Buddhist identity is not only helpful in creating an alternative culture but it has also provided a sense of moral community committed to the ethos of liberty, equality and fraternity. The recent celebration of Golden Jubilee of Buddhist conversion witnessed an assembly of more than fifteen lakh people at Nagpur in a single day. In all such gatherings, Dalits took initiatives voluntarily in organizing the events and has consciously rejected any politicization of their cultural symbols even by Dalit parties. Independently the Dalit masses have established an alternative social and culture ethos over the doctrine of Navayana Buddhism which is responsible for a proud and spirited identity among them.

Secondly, the socio-political ideology of Dalit Movement in Maharashtra is based on the teachings Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, which negates Brahmanical domination and proposes a revolutionary transformation of social order. The Dalits social, cultural and political groups are numerously scattered and there is no possibility of their unification on one platform but it has hardly affected over the commitment of the Dalit masses to the philosophical doctrine of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar. They do not need any political patron to represent or to protect them. Here the Dalits without any political interest and plan are relentlessly fighting for their rights, dignity and self-respect and never allowed them to fall prey to the violent political designs of extremists (Naxalites), even at the heights of provocations. Their matured sensitivity and strong belief in constitutional set up gives them strength and courage to fight uncompromisingly against Brahmanical forces. Dalits here have also till date rejected the “Mission” of some professional politicians of the country, as these leaders are so much engulfed in the matrix of number games that the moral responsibility of political activism to fight Brahmanical casteism has died in favor of pragmatism and half hearted console to the victims of caste atrocities. The Dalits of course do not have any faith in the upper caste elite led political parties which, incident after incident of atrocities have only shown seer insensitivity towards the victims and always tried to protect the culprits. This autonomous and independent political assertion of the Maharashtra’s Dalits is significant because of their militant and non compromising attitude. This passionate zeal provides them an impetus to recognize their role not as an arbitrator in the field of power but as the vanguards of Ambedkarite mission.

Thirdly, in Maharashtra, Ambedkar and later Dalit Panther Movement have established certain basic principles, values and ideals which negate the narrow power centric opportunistic electoral arithmetic of popular caste politics and give a revolutionary élan for the total emancipation from every kind of social, economic, cultural and political oppressions. They understood that the goal of Dalit emancipation cannot be achieved with a narrow perspective of political maneuverings, but an organic total transformation of the society can be achieved only through relentless and militant struggles of the people to annihilate the caste system. The Dalit masses even in all the adverse conditions have candidly maintained their autonomous and independent position and upheld the ideological doctrines of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar to achieve their revolutionary goals.

Even in other parts of the country where because of strong identity politics, some Dalit political parties have played a significant role in developing the political consciousness of Dalit masses, they lack such cohesive and vibrant social churning which is evident among Dalits of Maharashtra. We believe that in Maharashtra, the main concern is not gaining political power but the idea of social revolution has dominant over the psyche of Dalit masses.

Under these concerns, the Dalits of Maharashtra has given a revolutionary elan arguing that achieving a vibrant social revolution through consistent struggle of people is inevitable to materialize the ideal goal of political revolution. The recent street protests in Maharashtra therefore should be seen under the larger perspective of growing Dalit consciousness, self-respect and commitment to revolutionary ideals and not only as a reaction to one or another incident of caste atrocities.

Harish S. Wankhede
Lecturer, Political Science
Ramlal Anand College (E), Delhi University, New Delhi

_________

crtsy: http://dalitperspectivejnu.blogspot.com/search?updated-min=2006-01-01T00:00:00-08:00&updated-max=2007-01-01T00:00:00-08:00&max-results=12


Rape-accused BSP MLA suspended

02/01/2011

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati on Sunday suspended a legislator of her Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) accused of raping a minor girl. In an order, the chief minister said BSP legislator Pushottam Narain Dwivedi has been suspended from the party pending an inquiry by the Crime Investigation

Department. If found guilty, Dwivedi will be expelled from the party and sent to jail.

 

“No one, howsoever important, will be spared,” the chief minister said in a stern message.

On Saturday, the chief minister ordered a police inquiry into the allegations of gangrape and illegal confinement of a minor girl by Dwivedi and his supporters in the state’s Banda district.

The girl, belonging to the Dalit community, had accused Dwivedi and his henchmen of not only subjecting her to gangrape but also using his influence to implicate her in a theft case.

Dwivedi accused her of stealing his licenced revolver and Rs.5,000 from his house, for which she was currently lodged in jail in Banda, 180 km from Lucknow.

Mayawati got into action only after the issue was raised by both state Congress chief Rita Bahuguna Joshi and Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh Yadav, who charged her with shielding criminals in her party.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/Rape-accused-BSP-MLA-suspended/Article1-645539.aspx


NDC-OHCHR-Nepal launch observation on the Untouchability Bill

24/12/2010

Wednesday, 8 December 2010,

We are concerned over the process of drafting and submission of the Bill: NDC, OHCHR-Nepal

Kathmandu – On the occasion of the Human Rights Day, the National Dalit Commission of Nepal (NDC) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal (OHCHR-Nepal) released today an analysis of the draft Caste-based Discrimination and Untouchability Crime Elimination and Punishment Act, entitled, “NDC and OHCHR-Nepal Observations on the Untouchability Bill”.

With this document, the NDC and OHCHR-Nepal, make an assessment of the draft bill and offer a set of recommendations to the Legislative-Parliament and other relevant actors to ensure consistency of the proposed bill with national and international human rights standards.

Non-discrimination and equality are core human rights principles and Nepal is a state party to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. The Convention obliges the Government inter alia, to prohibit discrimination based on descent, including caste-based discrimination. The Interim Constitution of Nepal and other legislation also prohibit any discrimination based on caste and untouchability. The draft bill should fill the gaps of the current legislation to ensure effective prosecution of criminal offense based on caste-based discrimination and untouchability and compensation for the victims. In particular, it should be revised to incorporate appropriate penalties and statutes of limitations corresponding to the seriousness of each offence, an essential way to ensure the right to an effective remedy for the victims.

“We welcome the submission of the draft bill on Caste-based Discrimination and Untouchability Crime Elimination and Punishment to the Legislature-Parliament as a very positive step forward which offers an opportunity to make Nepali legislation consistent with international standards,” stated in a joint press statement released today by NDC and OHCHR-Nepal, adding, “if the current gaps are corrected, the proposed law could become a key tool to curb the deep-rooted practice of castebased discrimination and practices of untouchability in Nepal.”

“We insist however that the process of drafting and submission of the Bill makes the object of meaningful consultations with key stakeholders and the general public,” said Bijul Kumar Biswakarma, the chairperson of NDC, and Anthony Cardon, Officerin- Charge of OHCHR-Nepal, adding, “the NDC and OHCHR-Nepal urge the Legislature-Parliament and the Government of Nepal to make public the content of the draft bill to seek views from concerned stakeholders and to incorporate their concerns and recommendations in the draft Bill”.

http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/rwb.nsf/db900sid/EGUA-8BYNY4?OpenDocument


Recasting Hinduism for the 21st century

24/12/2010

It is important that Hindus take the lead in acknowledging the damage that caste discrimination does and resolving to tackle it

rao

India Dalit HinduDalits at the National Conference of Dalits in New Delhi. Photograph: Manish Swarup/APCaste has become the convenient “hook” to hang the Hinduism portrait since Hinduism, that “rolling caravan of conceptual spaces”, is too complex a religion/way of life for the “people of the book” who have reigned supreme the past two millennia. Unfortunately, caste being the complex conundrum that it is, Hinduism almost always is seen through the prism of caste. 

In a newly published report, the Hindu American Foundation tackles the issue of caste discrimination, and of the immediate and urgent need for Hindus to acknowledge that caste is not an intrinsic part of Hinduism; that continuing caste-based discrimination is a major human rights problem; and only Hindus, through reform movements, through an activist agenda, and through education can rid Hindu society of the scourge of caste-based discrimination.

While there will be naysayers in the Hindu community, who wish to get into their bunkers and fight a rearguard battle to “defend” Hinduism from what they see as a concerted campaign of vilification by Christian missionaries, Muslim fundamentalists, Marxist Hindu haters, and a global-capitalist-western hegemony, it is important that Hindus bell the casteist cat themselves. In this regard, the HAF report points out that caste-based discrimination is a serious human rights issue in the Indian subcontinent, and that over 160 million people, whom the Indian government categorises as “scheduled castes” (SCs), suffer from discrimination by not only a variety of Hindu caste groups but even by “upper caste” Christians and Muslims after they have converted to Christianity or Islam.

The Indian constitution, whose chief architect, BR Ambedkar, was himself a member of the scheduled castes, outlaws “untouchability” – the act of segregating and ostracising a social group by literally prohibiting physical contact with members of the SCs. Alas, India is hobbled by a weak and sometimes dysfunctional judicial system, and therefore acts of discrimination against the SCs (or Dalits, as many of them prefer to call themselves) either go unpunished or ignored.

Other lawlessness in India goes unpunished but the challenge of dealing with caste-based discrimination has been the most disheartening. This is especially so in rural areas where caste dynamics continues to play havoc. In 2008, for example, according to the Indian government, there were 33,615 human rights violations of various types – from the denial of entry into temples to denial of service in wayside restaurants, and from bonded labour to the exploitation of women.

HAF’s report therefore begins with an important point: that Hindus must acknowledge that caste arose in Hindu society, that some Hindu texts and traditions justify a birth-based hierarchy and caste bias, and that it has survived despite considerable attempts by Hindus to curtail it. It notes that caste-based discrimination represents a failure of Hindu society “to live up to its essential spiritual teachings,” that divinity is inherent in all beings, and that caste is not an intrinsic part of Hinduism.

Sure, untouchability is practiced not just by Hindus in India and Nepal but by non-Hindus in Yemen, Japan, Korea, France, Somalia, and Tibet. But the sheer number of people who are discriminated against in India makes this a uniquely Indian and Hindu problem. Fishing in India’s troubled waters are therefore missionaries who for long have sought to make India Christian, and the left/Marxist forces in India who see only Hinduism as a problem but not religion per se. In recent decades, and especially after George W Bush became president, there was a surge in monies funneled into India for planting churches and converting Hindus. Organisations like the Dalit Freedom Network, led by and catering to mostly Christians, have gone on overdrive and sought to categorise SCs as non-Hindus and therefore arguing that they are not converting Hindus to Christianity.

HAF’s report, a first of its kind by a modern Hindu advocacy group, provides readers a handy but grand sweep of the problem of caste – from its origins to its role in the past and at present, its use and abuse, and reform movements from the earliest by the likes of Basaveshwara to the great 19th- and 20th-century reform movements like the Arya Samajmovement, and reformers like Jyotiba PhuleNarayana GuruMahatma Gandhi, and others.

Noting that there are defenders of the caste system, not just the curmudgeon and cruel among Hindus, but the likes of Voltaire and Diderot who fought against the monotheistic intolerance of Christians and Muslims, to sociologists like Louis Dumont who argued that the “distribution of functions leads to exchanges”, to the great Indophile,Alain Daniélou who argued that caste does not equate to “racist inequality but … a natural ordering of diversity,” the HAF report argues that a birth-based hierarchy is unacceptable, that inequities against and the abuse of the Dalits/SCs is a human rights issue, and that the solution to this social ill is available within Hindu sacred texts themselves, and that Hindus should be at the forefront of putting an end to the system of birth-based hierarchy as well as taking the lead in energising the Dalit community to fight discrimination.

As the British seek to draft a new bill of rights, and from what one hears,equate caste with racism, similar to what was sought at the United Nations Durban conference on racism and racial discrimination, as western Europe and US-based missionary groups ratchet up the calls for actions and sanctions against India, and as we move into a new era of global interaction, it is time for Hindus to act.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2010/dec/21/india-hindu-dalit


Upper castes in remote area of Uttar Pradesh object to Angrezi Devi

05/12/2010

A Dalit-dominated hamlet in remote area of Uttar Pradesh (UP) is on the radar of top officials of the Mayawati administration nowadays. At the crux of their interest is a new goddess ‘Angrezi Devi’.

Construction of a temple consecrated to this goddess of English is in full swing in Jang Bahadur Ganj village of Lakhimpur Kheri district. But tension has already begun to simmer over this unique campaign to popularise English and modern education among Dalits. Upper castes feel this is the first step towards conversion of Dalits to Christianity. They also feel worshipping ‘Angrezi Devi’ is an insult to Hindu goddesses.

“Those who are opposing the ‘Angrezi Devi’ temple are either ignorant or are acting at the behest of some vested interests,” says renowned writer on Dalit issues, Dr Chandrabhan Prasad, who is the driving force behind the ingenious initiative. “English education is the primary need of Dalits. We are working on Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar’s inspiration,” he said.

A three-feet high statue of the goddess of English is ready for installation. The statue is designed on the lines of New York’s Statue of Liberty. It holds aloft a pen in one hand and a copy of the Indian Constitution in the other.

But even as Dalits of Jang Bahadur Ganj toil day and night for the proposed inauguration of the new temple by month-end, top officials in Lucknow are a worried lot. “We have been getting reports of tension between Dalits and upper castes over this temple… we only hope this issue doesn’t flare up,” a senior police official said. State intelligence agencies, he added, were keeping a close eye on the situation.

“The upper castes feel this is only a ruse to convert Dalits to Christianity,” he said, adding that a number of people had apprised senior district officials of their objections. “They also see the temple as an attempt to grab land,” the official said.

Because of its Dalit dimension, the “Angrezi Devi” issue is highly sensitive for the Mayawati government. So, no senior official is willing to go on record about the controversy.

Meanwhile, students of the Nalanda Shiksha Niketan, a local Dalit school, have even written a prayer to worship the goddess in English.

The structure of the temple, being built on about 800 square feet of land, is almost complete. Prasad says the temple walls would be adorned with scientific formulae, famous quotes and gems of knowledge from a variety of subjects. However, what remains to be seen is whether this new temple spreads the light of knowledge or the flames of caste conflict.

http://www.dnaindia.com/mumbai/report_upper-castes-in-remote-area-of-uttar-pradesh-object-to-angrezi-devi_1464102