Dalit sisters make it to judicial services in male-dominated Haryana



Dalit sisters make it to Haryana judicial services
Meenu and Yachana Sarswal with their father after being selected into judicial services.
YAMUNANAGAR: Haryana is celebrating the success of Dalit sisters, Meenu and Yachana, who were recently appointed judicial officers.

The girls from Musimbal, a village in Yamunanagar district, are an inspiration for thousands to dream big in a state infamous for its skewed sex ratio.

The girls have a sister, Rajni, who has an MBA and is a bank officer. Their father, Raghuvir Ram, is proud of his daughters and says he never felt the lack of a son. He was always happy raising his daughters. Raghuvir works for a nationalized bank in Chandigarh. His wife had a government job.

”In a society where sons and daughters are seldom treated as equals, we never let them feel they were at a disadvantage. Parents must be proud of their daughters and help them flourish,” Raghuvir says.

Likewise, the girls are proud of their parents, who always motivated and helped them to move ahead and achieve their targets. ”They always supported and motivated us, so that we could be successful and do something better for society,” said Meenu, a law post-graduate from Panjab University, Chandigarh.

Her sister Yachana, who also has an LLM from the same university, is keen to do something special to save the girl child.

”With the spread of education we can eradicate all evils from society. The female sex ratio can be improved only by educating women,” said Yachana, who made it to the judicial service in her first attempt.

Read more: Dalit sisters make it to judicial services in male-dominated Haryana – The Times of India http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Dalit-sisters-make-it-to-judicial-services-in-male-dominated-Haryana/articleshow/7154041.cms#ixzz1941GMdLm



India’s “Untouchables” Face Violence, Discrimination

Hillary Mayell
for National Geographic News
June 2, 2003

More than 160 million people in India are considered “Untouchable”—people tainted by their birth into a caste system that deems them impure, less than human.

Human rights abuses against these people, known as Dalits, are legion. A random sampling of headlines in mainstream Indian newspapers tells their story: “Dalit boy beaten to death for plucking flowers”; “Dalit tortured by cops for three days”; “Dalit ‘witch’ paraded naked in Bihar”; “Dalit killed in lock-up at Kurnool”; “7 Dalits burnt alive in caste clash”; “5 Dalits lynched in Haryana”; “Dalit woman gang-raped, paraded naked”; “Police egged on mob to lynch Dalits”.

“Dalits are not allowed to drink from the same wells, attend the same temples, wear shoes in the presence of an upper caste, or drink from the same cups in tea stalls,” said Smita Narula, a senior researcher with Human Rights Watch, and author of Broken People: Caste Violence Against India’s “Untouchables.” Human Rights Watch is a worldwide activist organization based in New York.

India’s Untouchables are relegated to the lowest jobs, and live in constant fear of being publicly humiliated, paraded naked, beaten, and raped with impunity by upper-caste Hindus seeking to keep them in their place. Merely walking through an upper-caste neighborhood is a life-threatening offense.

Nearly 90 percent of all the poor Indians and 95 percent of all the illiterate Indians are Dalits, according to figures presented at the International Dalit Conference that took place May 16 to 18 in Vancouver, Canada.

Crime Against Dalits

Statistics compiled by India’s National Crime Records Bureau indicate that in the year 2000, the last year for which figures are available, 25,455 crimes were committed against Dalits. Every hour two Dalits are assaulted; every day three Dalit women are raped, two Dalits are murdered, and two Dalit homes are torched.

No one believes these numbers are anywhere close to the reality of crimes committed against Dalits. Because the police, village councils, and government officials often support the caste system, which is based on the religious teachings of Hinduism, many crimes go unreported due to fear of reprisal, intimidation by police, inability to pay bribes demanded by police, or simply the knowledge that the police will do nothing.

“There have been large-scale abuses by the police, acting in collusion with upper castes, including raids, beatings in custody, failure to charge offenders or investigate reported crimes,” said Narula.

That same year, 68,160 complaints were filed against the police for activities ranging from murder, torture, and collusion in acts of atrocity, to refusal to file a complaint. Sixty two percent of the cases were dismissed as unsubstantiated; 26 police officers were convicted in court.

Despite the fact that untouchability was officially banned when India adopted its constitution in 1950, discrimination against Dalits remained so pervasive that in 1989 the government passed legislation known as The Prevention of Atrocities Act. The act specifically made it illegal to parade people naked through the streets, force them to eat feces, take away their land, foul their water, interfere with their right to vote, and burn down their homes.

Since then, the violence has escalated, largely as a result of the emergence of a grassroots human rights movement among Dalits to demand their rights and resist the dictates of untouchability, said Narula.

Lack of Enforcement, Not Laws

Enforcement of laws designed to protect Dalits is lax if not non-existent in many regions of India. The practice of untouchability is strongest in rural areas, where 80 percent of the country’s population resides. There, the underlying religious principles of Hinduism dominate.

Hindus believe a person is born into one of four castes based on karma and “purity”—how he or she lived their past lives. Those born as Brahmans are priests and teachers; Kshatriyas are rulers and soldiers; Vaisyas are merchants and traders; and Sudras are laborers. Within the four castes, there are thousands of sub-castes, defined by profession, region, dialect, and other factors.

Untouchables are literally outcastes; a fifth group that is so unworthy it doesn’t fall within the caste system.

Although based on religious principles practiced for some 1,500 years, the system persists today for economic as much as religious reasons.

Because they are considered impure from birth, Untouchables perform jobs that are traditionally considered “unclean” or exceedingly menial, and for very little pay. One million Dalits work as manual scavengers, cleaning latrines and sewers by hand and clearing away dead animals. Millions more are agricultural workers trapped in an inescapable cycle of extreme poverty, illiteracy, and oppression.

Although illegal, 40 million people in India, most of them Dalits, are bonded workers, many working to pay off debts that were incurred generations ago, according to a report by Human Rights Watch published in 1999. These people, 15 million of whom are children, work under slave-like conditions hauling rocks, or working in fields or factories for less than U.S. $1 day.

Crimes Against Women

Dalit women are particularly hard hit. They are frequently raped or beaten as a means of reprisal against male relatives who are thought to have committed some act worthy of upper-caste vengeance. They are also subject to arrest if they have male relatives hiding from the authorities.

A case reported in 1999 illustrates the toxic mix of gender and caste.

A 42-year-old Dalit woman was gang-raped and then burnt alive after she, her husband, and two sons had been held in captivity and tortured for eight days. Her crime? Another son had eloped with the daughter of the higher-caste family doing the torturing. The local police knew the Dalit family was being held, but did nothing because of the higher-caste family’s local influence.

There is very little recourse available to victims.

A report released by Amnesty International in 2001 found an “extremely high” number of sexual assaults on Dalit women, frequently perpetrated by landlords, upper-caste villagers, and police officers. The study estimates that only about 5 percent of attacks are registered, and that police officers dismissed at least 30 percent of rape complaints as false.

The study also found that the police routinely demand bribes, intimidate witnesses, cover up evidence, and beat up the women’s husbands. Little or nothing is done to prevent attacks on rape victims by gangs of upper-caste villagers seeking to prevent a case from being pursued. Sometimes the policemen even join in, the study suggests. Rape victims have also been murdered. Such crimes often go unpunished.

Thousands of pre-teen Dalit girls are forced into prostitution under cover of a religious practice known as devadasis, which means “female servant of god.” The girls are dedicated or “married” to a deity or a temple. Once dedicated, they are unable to marry, forced to have sex with upper-caste community members, and eventually sold to an urban brothel.

Resistance and Progress

Within India, grassroots efforts to change are emerging, despite retaliation and intimidation by local officials and upper-caste villagers. In some states, caste conflict has escalated to caste warfare, and militia-like vigilante groups have conducted raids on villages, burning homes, raping, and massacring the people. These raids are sometimes conducted with the tacit approval of the police.

In the province Bihar, local Dalits are retaliating, committing atrocities also. Non-aligned Dalits are frequently caught in the middle, victims of both groups.

“There is a growing grassroots movement of activists, trade unions, and other NGOs that are organizing to democratically and peacefully demand their rights, higher wages, and more equitable land distribution,” said Narula. “There has been progress in terms of building a human rights movement within India, and in drawing international attention to the issue.”

In August 2002, the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (UN CERD) approved a resolution condemning caste or descent-based discrimination.

“But at the national level, very little is being done to implement or enforce the laws,” said Narula.


Nepal: Combating Violence against Dalit Women of the Terai


Dr. Hari Bansh Jha

Many of the Dalit organizations in Nepal believe that the population of the Dalits in the country’s total population of 23,151,423 is 20 per cent. However, the census report 2001 shows that the population of the Dalits is only 14 per cent (3,241,199) of the country’s total population. A breakdown of the Dalit population reveals that the Dalits of the Terai origin like Dom, Dusadh, Halkhor, Chamar, Tatma, Khatwe, Musahar and Bantar is only 36 per cent (1,166,831) against 64 per cent population of the hill-based Dalits like Damai, Kami, Sarki and Gaine (2,074,367)Studies show that violence against women is rampant all over Nepal. As much as 95 per cent of the women in the country are victims of one or the other form of political, economic and domestic violence. Yet the problem of violence against Dalit women of the Terai is more serious in nature as compared to other communities.

Even after the restoration of multi-party democracy in Nepal in 1990, there has not been any remarkable change in the socio-economic status of the Terai Dalits. Worse among these people is the condition of the Dalit women, who are triply oppressed by the so-called high caste people, patriarchal social system and the Dalit males. Most of these women are tortured mentally, physically and sometimes even killed on one or the other ground.

The Dalit women of the Terai fail to safeguard their interests and make protest for their rights as they are weak. Because of the caste system, the Dalits are divided among themselves. Education among the Dalit women is only 6 per cent or so. In certain Dalit caste such as Musahar the literacy rate is as low as 4 per cent. Drop-out rates among the school-going children is higher among the Dalit girls. Representation of these women in administration and political bodies is almost nil.

As the Dalit women of the Terai are voiceless, their plight is often overlooked. The I/NGOs, government and civil society are least concerned about their problems. With this view in mind, the Centre for Economic and Technical Studies (CETS) in cooperation with Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) conducted seminar on “Combating Violence against Dalit Women of the Terai” on October 28, 2003 at Janakpur to create awareness in the society to combat violence against the Dalit women. The seminar was a continuation of the support extended by FES to CETS for the Dalit cause in Nepal.

With a view to suggesting measures for combating violence against Dalit women, the seminar intended to discuss the general situation of violence against Dalit women, review the nature of economic exploitation with these women, assess the discriminatory practices against them in educational institutions, find out the factors that restrict them from attending the schools, and analyze the social problems, including the dowry system and witchcraft which add to the suffering of the Dalit women.

To achieve the above objectives, the seminar was organized at the seminar hall of Chamber of Commerce and Industries at Janakpur on October 28, 2003. The distinguished participants and resource persons of the seminar represented various segments of the society, including the Dalit women and men, academic institutions, media, political parties, NGOs, etc.

Opening of the seminar was made by the welcome speech of Hari Bansh Jha, Executive Director, CETS. In his speech, Jha welcomed all the guests and participants and highlighted the objectives and programmes of the seminar.

Among the galaxy of participants in the seminar, four papers were presented, which included Basant Kumar Vishwokarma’s paper on Overlooking the Education of TeraiDalit Girls, Ram Chandra Sah’s paper on Violence against Dalit Women of the Terai in Social Sector, Prakash A. Raj’s paper on Violation of Political Rights of Dalit Women of the Terai, and Hari Bansh Jha’s paper on Economic Violence against the Dalit Women ofthe Terai.

During the floor discussion, a number of intelligent questions were raised. Apart from the Dalit women, intellectuals from various walks of life also took active part in discussion. Sumitra Devi Mahara and Ram Baran Paswan from the Dalit community discussed in detail the different forms of violence against the women of their community. Namo Narayan Jha, Bishnu Kunwar, Lalan Jha and Roshana Khadka made useful comments and suggestions on different ways and means to combat violence against Dalit women.

It was concluded in the seminar that the concerned agencies should take effective measures to provide employment opportunities to the Dalit women, apart from improving their traditional caste-based skills. For a fixed period of time, they should be given reservation in jobs, educational institutions and political bodies. Dalit women of the Terai should also be given due representation in various Dalit-based organizations and National Dalit Commission. A separate data-base should be prepared on the Dalit women of the Terai and they should be given due focus in Human Development Report or any report prepared nationally or internationally. Pressure groups should be formed to impress upon the government to execute the Dalit-related programs of the 9th and 10th Plan.

Experts of the Janakpur seminar also added that the education of the Dalit girls and women should be promoted through poverty-eradication schemes. Religious movement should be started to enhance Dalit’s role in the society. Legal machinery should be made effective to punish those who indulge discriminatory treatment with the Dalits in public places. All such people who torture the Dalit women on the ground of dowry, witchcraft or any such fake base, should be penalized. But more than all this, it is needed that certain seats should be reserved for the Dalits and Dalit women in the Parliamentary and local elections. There should be provision for certain reserved constituencies where only Dalits are eligible to become candidates, although all communities could vote for candidates for such constituencies.

(Dr. Jha is Nepal’s senior economist)

2008-04-30 07:04:24


Students refuse food cooked by Dalits; principal suspended


Friday, July 09, 2010, 15:35 IST

Lucknow: The principal of a government-run school in Uttar Pradesh’s Ramabai Nagar district was suspended for inaction and negligence after students refused to eat the midday meal prepared by two Dalit cooks, officials said on Friday.

A probe has also been initiated against Jasapur Primary School principal Maan Singh and district education officials, including senior official Anil Rawat, as they knew that several upper-caste students of the school were not eating the meal prepared by the Dalit women.

They neither took any step to solve the case nor informed other senior officials about it.

“It’s a serious matter. They should have acted timely. Preliminary enquiry indicates that the principal, and education officials tried to cover up the matter,” Sanjay Kumar, official in-charge of primary education, told reporters in Ramabai Nagar.

“We have suspended the principal and will take strict action against other officials also,” he said.

“During an inspection on Thursday, it came to the fore that students belonging to upper castes were not eating the midday meal that was prepared by two Dalit women, who were appointed as cooks recently at the school,” he added.

The Jasapur primary school is in Sandalpur block, some 300 km from Lucknow.

About 150,000 schools are covered under the midday meal scheme in Uttar Pradesh, officials said.

The National Programme of Nutritional Support to Primary Education, also known as Mid-Day Meal Programme, was launched as a centrally-sponsored scheme on August 15, 1995.

Its objective is to boost universalisation of primary education and improve the nutritional status of the food being given to the children, the officials added.



Dalit girl paraded naked in Mumbai


Jul 10, 2010, 01.22am IST

MUMBAI: Cases of attacks on dalit women aren’t confined to rural India: last month, a young dalit girl was stripped and paraded in a southern Mumbai locality. The local police has arrested 10 women and two men and slapped them with cases of atrocities. However, Sharada Yadav, the main accused, is out on bail.

Said senior police inspector Rajan Bhogale: “All the suspects named by the victim, including Sharada Yadav, were arrested in the case. We charged them under the Prevention of Atrocities Act. But Sharda Yadav was granted bail by the court.” The 22-year-old dalit girl Mita Kamble (name changed), who was stripped and dragged out of her house at Darukhana, Reay Road, by a mob of mostly women, said: “They all shouted that dalits like me should not live in this area. They kept hurling abuses on me.”

What led to the incident was rape of a five-year-old child, allegedly by Mita’s brother, a watchman at the ship-breaking yard, on June 16. Vijay Kamble (34) was arrested by the Sewri police. “While stripping me, Sharada Yadav and another woman kept shouting that I would have to pay for my brother’s crime,” said Mita.

On the other hand, the five-year-old girl who was raped returned home on Friday after she underwent two surgeries in J J Hospital. Several organisations and social workers recently held a rally and demanded the police to hold some counselling sessions for the residents.