Posts Tagged ‘Fascism’

Fears of social unrest ahead as India’s rise creates new underclass

January 5, 2008

Double-edged boom hits India’s poor

Fears of social unrest ahead as country’s rise creates new underclass
From Raymond Thibodeaux in New Delhi

EVEN AMID the chaotic swarm of Delhi’s traffic, with horns blaring and trucks and buses rumbling past, Omprekash Takur’s place of business remains a bastion of stillness and calm. Which is a good thing, as Takur’s speciality is open-razor shaves.

Takur has spent nearly 10 years at this barber shop, or what passes for a barber shop: a small stretch of pavement with a rusted chair, a plastic table for his shaving kit, two pairs of scissors, a comb and a square mirror hanging from a nail driven into the trunk of a tamarind tree, its leaves darkened by soot and dust kicked up by the traffic.

“My father taught me to do this when I was seven and I’ve been doing it ever since. My teachers would beat me for skipping classes, but I enjoyed making money from cutting hair,” said the slight, dark-skinned Takur, now 27, as he loaded a fresh blade into the razor.
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India’s city streets are filled with people like Takur – barbers, ear cleaners, cobblers and tailors, a rag-tag platoon of kerbside personal assistants for the country’s urban masses. But for many of them, India’s economic rise has chipped away at their client base as a growing number of Indians are better able to afford more upmarket versions of their services at newly sprouted shopping malls.

The huge wealth being generated by India’s booming economy has been slow to trickle down to the street level, where most of the country’s 400 million workers ply their trades. Typically, they are poorly educated and semi-skilled, and toil away in a shadowy, informal economy that falls under the radar of most government controls and protections.

As India’s rises, the gap between rich and poor appears to be widening. With a 6% inflation rate, the new India seems to be backfiring on the poor, who are hardest hit by increases in the cost of basic necessities such as food and shelter. This has stoked fears of a looming social turmoil in this country of 1.1 billion people, as a growing and increasingly restive underclass is left to fend for itself as India’s economic tide turns.

“These are our electricians, our plumbers, our housemaids and our drivers. They are the backbone of our economic success, and yet they live in slums,” said Ranjana Kumari, director for the Centre of Social Research in New Delhi, a non-governmental agency focused on India’s workplace.

“There is a serious flaw in the government policies that guide our economy. There needs to be more government initiative to care for these workers and give them a bigger share of the wealth.”

So far, India’s pro-growth government has been reluctant to burden businesses with costly regulations that would do just that. And many Indian companies have been unwilling to absorb them as formal employees, who would then be entitled to the few perks already required by law: health benefits, pension plans, holidays and severance pay.

As a result, about 93% of India’s workforce remains informal and unorganised.

“Ideally, we want to formalise our entire workforce, give them pensions and health benefits and so on, but that’s going to take a long time,” said Pronab Sen, the Indian government’s chief statistician. Part of the hold-up is that more and more rural Indians are abandoning their farms and moving to urban areas to seek better jobs as rickshaw drivers, street sweepers and barbers. These workers are hard to keep track of and much harder to organise.

“The informal sector is an extremely important transition between the rural areas and the cities. It allows the people to learn different trades that are more useful and better-paying,” Sen said.

In the shade of the tamarind tree, Takur dipped his shaving brush in hot water and lathered up another scruffy face, his third in the space of an hour. He said he usually rakes in at least £3 a day, three times the daily wage of most Indians. It’s enough to support his wife and his three sons, aged six, four and two.

Asked how India’s boom had benefited him, he said: “It hasn’t.” But a client, a rickshaw taxi driver waiting his turn in the barber’s chair, pointed out that Takur had doubled his prices since last year.

“Yes, that’s true, but that is not really a benefit to me,” said Takur, using his palm to wipe shaving cream off the razor. “My supplies are costing more, so I must pass that on to my customer.”

Sunday Herald

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Global Hindutva in support of Gujarat’s super hindu leader

December 3, 2007

A large number of Gujarati NRIs have landed in their native state to lend support to political parties they are backing in the upcoming assembly election, due on December 11 and 16.

Many are supporters of incumbent Narendra Modi, who feel the state has developed under the stewardship of the BJP leader. Opposing them are a considerable number of Congress
supporters, who say Modi has divided the state.

Although they cannot vote in the state assembly polls, the NRIs who have come from places like the UK and US are pumping in huge amounts of money in campaigning, besides trying to woo voters for the party of their choice.

”Though I can’t vote, still I would like to see to it that the right people are voted to power. Even if I can’t vote I would like to make sure that other 100 people at least go and vote. It’s very important,” says 42-year-old Rajen Patel from London, an ardent supporter of Modi.

Patel, who claims he campaigned for former US vice president Al Gore when he was in the presidential race, says about 100 like-minded NRIs in the UK have decided to come to Gujarat to support Modi as they believe he is ushering in growth and development.

”We would like to invest in Gujarat as things have improved a lot here. There is less of corruption now and action is taken on complaints made even over phones,” he says.

Rejecting the claims of development under Modi’s government are Congress supporters, who have also come together based on their political affiliation.

”What development are they talking about? Everything is a hogwash. No state can develop where people are divided. And that’s what BJP has done here,” says Deepak Amin, who has come all the way from Seattle (US) to support Congress.

”To be number one you have to be united first. When you talk about Hindu rastra, you ignore the rest of the people in the country. What about them?” Amin laments.

He says he is in touch with at least 15 other like-minded NRIs from various countries.

”We have held several rounds of meetings in Seattle, New York, New Jersey etc to discuss our agenda before coming to India. We will be reaching out to people to pass on our message,” Amin says.

He said his ‘group’ was opposed to the way BJP is bragging about development in Gujarat, adding ”It’s just like their ‘India Shining’ campaign”.

But the Modi camp would like to differ. ”There’s discipline, peace and harmony now unlike earlier,” says Patel.

On his group’s strategy, Patel says, ”We will place ourselves in different regions of the state. Like five-six people in Vadodara, 10 in Ahmedabad and four in Surat, while one of us will be travelling to meet people and help the party in the electoral process.”

He claims Modi has many fans in the UK and US who want to know what can they do to help their state.

India, Where paradoxes reign supreme

November 26, 2007

It has become a cliché to speak of India as a land of paradoxes. The old joke about our country is that anything you say about India, the opposite is also true. We like to think of ourselves as an ancient civilisation but we are also a young republic; our IT experts stride confidently into the 21st century but much of our population seems to live in each of the other 20 centuries. Quite often the opposites co-exist quite cheerfully.

One of my favourite images of India is from the last Kumbha mela, of a naked sadhu, with matted hair, ash-smeared forehead and scraggly beard, for all the world a picture of timeless other-worldliness, chatting away on a cellphone. I even suggested it to the publishers of my newest book of essays on India as a perfect cover image, but they assured me it was so well-known that it had become a cliché in itself.

And yet, clichés are clichés because they are true, and the paradoxes of India say something painfully real about our society.

How does one come to terms with a country whose population is still nearly 40% illiterate but which has educated the world’s second-largest pool of trained scientists and engineers, many of whom are making a flourishing living in Silicon Valley? How does one explain a land where peasant organisations and suspicious officials once attempted to close down Kentucky Fried Chicken as a threat to the nation, where a former prime minister bitterly criticised the sale of Pepsi-Cola since 250 million of our countrymen and women don’t have access to clean drinking water, and which yet invents more sophisticated software for the world’s computer manufacturers than any other country on the planet? A place where bullock carts are still an indispensable mode of transportation for millions, but whose rocket and satellite programmes are amongst the most advanced on earth?

The paradoxes go well beyond the nature of our entry into the 21st century. Our teeming cities overflow while two out of three Indians still scratch a living from the soil. We have been recognised, for all practical purposes, as a leading nuclear power, but 600 million Indians still have no access to electricity and there are daily power cuts even in the nation’s capital.

Ours is a culture which elevated non-violence to an effective moral principle, but whose freedom was born in blood and whose independence still soaks in it. We are the world’s leading manufacturers of generic medication for illnesses such as AIDS, but we have three million of our own citizens without access to AIDS medication, another two million with TB, and tens of millions with no health centre or clinic within 10 kilometres of their places of residence.

Bollywood makes four times as many movies as Hollywood, but 150 million Indians cannot see them, because they are blind. India holds the world record for the number of cellphones sold (8.5 million last month), but also for the number of farmer suicides (4000 in the Vidarbha district of Maharashtra alone last year).

This month, in mid-November, the prestigious Forbes magazine list of the world’s top billionaires made room for 10 new Indian names. The four richest Indians in the world are collectively worth a staggering $180 billion, greater than the GDP of a majority of member states of the United Nations. Indian papers have reported with undisguised glee that these four (Lakshmi Mittal, the two Ambani brothers, and DLF chief K P Singh) are worth more than the 40 richest Chinese combined.

We seem to find less space in our papers to note that though we have more dollar billionaires than in any country in Asia – even more than Japan, which has been richer longer – we also have 260 million people living below the poverty line. And it’s not the World Bank’s poverty line of $1 a day, but the Indian poverty line of Rs 360 a month, or 30 cents a day – in other words, a line that’s been drawn just this side of the funeral pyre.

Last month, the Bombay Stock Exchange’s Sensex crossed 20,000, just 20 months after it had first hit 10,000; but on the same day, some 25,000 landless people marched to Parliament, clamouring for land reform and justice. We have trained world-class scientists and engineers, but 400 million of our compatriots are illiterate, and we also have more children who have not seen the inside of a school than any other country in the world does.

We have a great demographic advantage in 540 million young people under 25 (which means we should have a dynamic, youthful and productive workforce for the next 40 years when the rest of the world, including China, is ageing) but we also have 60 million child labourers, and 72% of the children in our government schools drop out by the eighth standard. We celebrate India’s IT triumphs, but information technology has employed a grand total of 1 million people in the last five years, while 10 million are entering the workforce each year and we don’t have jobs for them.

Many of our urban youth rightly say with confidence that their future will be better than their parents’ past, but there are Maoist insurgencies violently disturbing the peace in 165 of India’s 602 districts, and these are largely made up of unemployed young men.

So yes, we are a land of paradoxes, and amongst those paradoxes is that so many of us speak about India as a great power of the 21st century when we are not yet able to feed, educate and employ our people. And yet, India is more than the sum of its contradictions. It may be a country rife with despair and disrepair, but it nonetheless moved a Mughal Emperor to declaim, ‘‘if on earth there be paradise of bliss, it is this, it is this, it is this…’’ We just have a lot more to do before it can be anything like paradise for the vast majority of our fellow citizens.

25 Nov 2007, 0000 hrs IST,Shashi Tharoor, Times of India

316 million Indian workers get below $ 0.49 (Rs. 20) a day

August 12, 2007
  • 394.9 million workers (86 per cent of the working population) belong to the unorganized sector
  • 316 million workers live on less than Rs. 20, or $ 0.49, a day.
  • 88 per cent of the Scheduled Tribes and the Scheduled Castes, 80 per cent of the Other Backward Classes and 85 per cent of Muslims belong to this category of people living on less than Rs. 20 a day.
  • 90 per cent of agricultural labor households are landless or have less than one hectare of holding*
  • agriculture is getting feminized with 73 per cent women being associated with it compared to 52 per cent men.

NEW DELHI: An overwhelming 79 per cent of workers in the unorganised sector live with an income of less than Rs. 20 a day, according to the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector (NCEUS).

A report on “Conditions of Work and Promotion of Livelihoods in Unorganised Sector,” released by the Commission here on Thursday, says over 394.9 million workers (86 per cent of the working population) belong to the unorganised sector and work under “utterly deplorable” conditions with “extremely few livelihood options.”
“Poor, vulnerable”

The report says that 88 per cent of the Scheduled Tribes and the Scheduled Castes, 80 per cent of the Other Backward Classes and 85 per cent of Muslims belong to the category of “poor and vulnerable,” who earn less than Rs. 20 a day.

In 2004-05, a total of 836 million (77 per cent) had an income below Rs. 20 a day.

Landless

Households of the small and marginal farmers account for 84 per cent and are forced to spend more than they earn and are under debt, while 90 per cent of agricultural labour households are landless or have less than one hectare of holding.

The conditions in the non-agricultural sectors are no better with 21 to 46 per cent of men and 57 to 83 per cent of women being employed as casual workers, who get less than minimum wages.

As per the survey, the latest trends indicate that agriculture is getting feminised with 73 per cent women being associated with it compared to 52 per cent men.

The NCEUS attributes the plight of the unorganised workers to a lack of comprehensive and appropriate legislation and the absence of targeted programmes.

Inadequate

Where laws exist, the Commission finds their implementation inadequate. Also, they are seldom focussed on unorganised workers.

Releasing the report, NCEUS Chairman Arjun Sengupta said the panel had recommended a Rs. 45,000-crore action plan for the overall improvement of the unorganised sector.

Aug 10, 2007, Hindu

LEFTYPROF

967 Cases of Atrocities against Dalits in Gujarat

July 5, 2007

Dalits in Gujarat eclipsed under Modi: Meira

Claiming that the Dalits were “eclipsed” under the present dispensation in Gujarat, Union Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Meira Kumar on Monday criticised the Narendra Modi-led government for the “atrocities” meted out against Dalits and other backward sections of the society.

“The present government in Gujarat has a poor track record in tackling crimes against the backward sections of the society,” Kumar said addressing the day-long ‘jan-mitra shibir’ (conference of party workers) organised by the scheduled caste cell of Congress.

She claimed that Dalits were “eclipsed” in Gujarat at present.

“In the year 2005, there were a total of 967 cases of atrocities against Dalits in Gujarat where many were murdered, raped, burnt and seriously injured,” Kumar told the gathering of party workers who had assembled from different parts of the state.

“This year in just six months, there were a total of 412 cases of atrocities registered against backward classes including Dalits,” she said adding the figures she was quoting were sourced from the Social Justice department of Gujarat.

“In many of these cases FIRs are yet to be registered,” Kumar added

Press Trust of India, Gandhinagar, July 3, 2006

Betis As Bombs – Exploding The Borders Of Caste And Community

April 14, 2007

In every house there is a live bomb that can erupt at any time. Do you know who that is? Daughters are the honour of the family and the community, and to protect that is our Hindu duty and Hindu culture… . Come, and let’s unite to save bombs… I don’t believe in love marriage. We have to marry within our own community. These girls go to college, make friends with some lafanga [loafer], roam with them on their bikes, fall in love, and then run off and get married…We bring them back and convince them that they are ruining their future. They stay with me for a while and then return to their parents.” – Babu Bajrangi, Frontline, Dec 16-29 2006

Bajrangi is the VHP leader who gained notoriety recently for being the unofficial censor for the film Parzania in Ahmedabad. Less known in the fact that he boasts of having ‘rescued’ (kidnapped) no less than 918 women from his Kadwa Patel community who eloped to marry men outside the community – 70% of whom were Muslim or Christian men, and the rest were from other sub-castes.

The Gujarat genocide was marked by the rape of Muslim women and mutilation of their bodies by the Sangh Parivar. Such rapes were celebrated as acts of nationalism. Bajrangi’s acts of ‘rescue’ of Hindu women from marriages with ‘other’ men are also projected as acts of nationalism. The borders of caste and (religious) community need to be policed for infiltration from the enemy with as much vigilant surveillance as the borders of the nation. In fact, the border of each community (and family within it) is the border of nation in microcosm. The difference is that the borders of the family and community are lined with explosive from within. They are forever vulnerable because the sexuality of their own daughters has the potential to explode those boundaries and call into question the very foundation of racial purity on which the cultural nationalism of the Hindu Rashtra rests.

There are many who hold Hindutva’s violent codes to be a kind of Talibanic aberration and appeal to Hindus to distinguish it from the essentially liberal soul of Hinduism. See for instance Sitaram Yechury’s piece written in the wake of the Babri Masjid demolition, titled Pseudo-Hinduism Exposed: The Reality of the Saffron Brigade’s Myths. This piece explicitly contrasts liberal Hinduism to the impostor – ‘pseudo-Hinduism’ or Hindutva. Typically, this piece attributes India’s democracy to the choice in favour of secular democracy made by its Hindu majority and contrasts it with intolerant Islamic theocracies (implying that those theocracies are attributable to the choice made by intolerant Islamic majority?). As an extension of this thesis, Yechury observes, “The rabid intolerance of other religions (in Islamic theocracies) is matched by ruthlessly suppressive laws that deny elementary democratic rights especially to women.” The implication is that India in contrast assures those democratic rights to its women.

But it would be a mistake to imagine that this aspect of Hindutva – Bajrangi’s brand of violent policing of women, or the Bajrang Dal’s threat issued a few years back, that Hindu women who married Muslims would have their noses cut off, or its periodic threats against women wearing jeans or couples celebrating Valentine’s Day – marks a rupture with a gentler and more benign Hinduism. Communal fascism of the Hindutva variety draws sustenance from the widely prevailing anxiety of Hindu caste communities about breaching of patriarchal codes, caste and community boundaries – and the resultant threat to property relations and status. These anxieties are not the unique preserve of ‘backward’ rural communities; Prem Chowdhry shows us how modern phenomena like granting of legal inheritance rights to women and the social consequences of urbanisation in Haryana intensify these anxieties and the resultant violence against those who disobey marriage codes. (‘Enforcing Cultural Codes: Gender and Violence in Northern India’, A Question of Silence: The Sexual Economies of Modern India, ed. Mary John and Janaki Nair, 1998)

Uma Chakravarti has remarked how brahminical patriarchy has for long regarded women of upper castes as ‘gateways’ or points of breach into the caste system – requiring careful surveillance to preserve upper caste purity – and this “obsessive concern with policing female sexuality” has become a stubborn feature across caste groups (Uma Chakravarti, Gendering Caste: Through a Feminist Lens, 2003, pp 35-36). She notes that there is “widespread ‘consent’, in the sense that Gramsci outlines it, within civil society to regard choice, particularly when articulated by a woman as disruptive of the whole social order…and ‘with free choice of partners involving women, the whole social fabric seems to suffer a terrible tear’.” (Chakravarti, pp152-53) It is the existence of such consent for obsessive control of women’s sexual choice, such widespread fear of a ‘terrible’ tear inflicted by women’s free choice, that sustains and ‘naturalises’ Bajrangi’s mass abduction spree as a patriotic act. Bajrangi’s mass abductions are able to masquerade as a grotesque version of a more common ideology and practice of ‘guardianship’ (brother as guardian of sister’s honour) celebrated by popular cinema and serials and normalised by the festival of Raksha Bandhan. Adult women are legally beyond the scope and control of ‘guardianship’. Yet the ideology of guardianship (closely tied up with control of female sexuality, reproduction and labour) and its twin, the ideology that makes women the repositories of izzat or honour of the community/nation is perpetuated. The ‘honour’ killings decreed by caste panchayats for lovers who transgress codes of caste and community and Bajrangi’s abductions thus breathe the same ideological oxygen.

This leads us to ask: can Left movements and women’s movements challenge communal fascist violence against women without also challenging the ideology of guardianship and izzat? In the case of agrarian labour communities, usually dalit or extremely backward, there is tremendous resistance to the sexual exploitation of women by upper caste men, and Chakravarti notes that the “issue of izzat is central to peasant movements in Bihar under various Marxist-Leninist formations and in dalit movements” (Chakravarti, p 169). While resistance to sexual violence will continue to be a powerful mobilisational issue, these movements need to be alert to the dangers of the connotations and implications of izzat. These movements must guard against bearing the baggage of resentment against the upper caste taunts that lower caste women have no izzat to begin with or that lower caste men are ‘unable’ to ‘protect’ ‘their’ women. In other words, such radical political mobilisation must assert the autonomy and freedom of women who are dalit agrarian labourers – and must guard against framing the struggle in terms of asserting the ‘ability’ of lower caste men to ‘protect’ the ‘izzat’ of women and of their community. This means asserting the sexual freedom and autonomy of women within the community as much as against the oppressor without.

We need to recognise the links between Babu Bajrangi’s assaults on women’s freedom, and those structures and practices that we tend to take as normative, natural and acceptable – such as the practice of arranging marriages within one’s caste and community, disapproving of independent relationships forged by one’s sisters or daughters, holding oneself to be the ‘guardian’ of one’s sisters or daughters, and so on. Often, as long as overt coercion or violence is not involved, we tend to view anxiety about controlling sexual behaviour of daughters, as quite natural. Women’s movements and Left movements must confront and challenge the ideology of guardianship and izzat even where overt coercion is not flaunted – as part of their struggle against the structures of class and caste, and against communal fascism.

By Kavita Krishnan, 12 April, 2007, Countercurrents.org

Justice Rare for Victims of Minority Persecution in India

April 3, 2007

NEW DELHI, INDIA — For the first time an all-India picture has emerged of anti-Christian violence from a people’s tribunal.

Victims of Christian persecution from across India shared their horrific stories and highlighted the denial of justice to them before an independent people’s jury.

According to International Christian Concern (ICC), the depositions were part of « The Independent People’s Tribunal against the Rise of Fascist Forces in India and the Attack on the Secular State, » a three-day program which concluded here on March 22.

In its report, ICC said the independent jury was organized by non-profit organizations Anhad and Human Rights Law Network, and supported and attended by a plethora of rights groups, including Christian organizations, like the All India Christian Council (AICC) and the Christian Legal Association.

Of the 100 victims who submitted their statements, about 40 were Christian. The rest were mainly were from Gujarat state, which witnessed a wide-scale killing of members of the Muslim minority community in 2002.

Impunity of perpetrators of gang-rape

« I was gang-raped by my fellow tribal villagers, including the brother and father of the local legislator in January 2004, and I named everyone in my police complaint, but no one has been arrested till today, » lamented Taramani, a school teacher from Madhya Pradesh state’s Jhabua district.

Taramani’s village, Alirajpur, was one of the worst affected villages during the spate of anti-Christian violence that followed the infamous January 11 incident, in which a young girl was found dead in the compound of a Catholic school in Jhabua district. Hindu fundamentalist Hindu Jagran Manch (Forum for Revival of Hindus) blamed the murder on the church, and instigated a series of attacks on Christian individuals and their institutions. This was despite the fact that a non-Christian admitted to the crime.

« A crowd of about 250 people first launched an attack on my house and set it on fire and then some of them took me to a jungle and outraged my modesty, » said, Taramani, a widow.

With tears in her eyes, she added that when she returned she found the house completely gutted. “Even the police initially refused to register my complaint which they did only later and reluctantly.

« All that I have received from the government is Rs.30,000 ($700 USD), but no arrests. The perpetrators still tell me that nothing will happen to them, as they are very powerful, » she said.

Attackers remain at large

Another victim, Shobha Onkar, also from Alirajpur, could not help crying as she narrated how she was attacked by a mob in the aftermath of the January 11 incident. « About 300 people surrounded our house in the presence of the local police inspector and started breaking in. I thought I should open the door before they vandalized my house, but when they entered into the house, one of them hit me with a stick on my head. I started bleeding profusely, » she said.

« My son ran to the police and bent on his knees to plead them to rescue me, saying, ’They will kill my mother,’ but they did not budge, » she added.

Onkar also said that relatives of the local legislator belonging to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were among the crowd.

Onkar’s house was badly damaged and completely looted. « The government gave me only Rs.6,000 ($140 USD) as compensation. And justice, which matters the most, was denied, as the perpetrators were not brought to justice, » she added.

There were also victims from the states of Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Kerala and Jammu and Kashmir.

Lessons for the church

Dr. John Dayal, secretary general of the AICC who was one of the jury members, told ICC, « From the Christian perspective, the hearings were memorable and important. Christians of all denominations, and both men and women, came forward to depose for the first time in a major way. In my experience this is also the first time that an all-India picture has emerged of anti-Christian violence from a people’s tribunal. »

The all-India pattern of violence has lessons for everyone, and particularly for the church whether it is Catholic, Protestant or Evangelical, he said, adding that urgent steps needed to be taken. « Clergy and church workers have to be trained in human rights and basic law. »

Another memorable witness, said Dayal, was the compilation by the Rev. Madhu Chandra of AICC to prove the massive activity of Hindu extremists in the north-eastern Hindu majority states of Manipur and Assam.

« For me, the most heartening testimonies were of women — Muslim and Christian. »

Madhya Pradesh a daylight church

He also said it was obvious that « Hindutva pressure » was working. « The church in Madhya Pradesh is fast becoming a ’daylight church’ with mission activity in the evening and after sun down — which is how outreach programs can work in forest villages when people return home after sunset — has stopped. Only in full daylight can some work be done. And yet, the church hierarchy seems not too worried. »

In other areas, church activity is now confined to tribals alone, who constitute just a third of the population even in the so-called tribal belt of central India, he said. « This has serious ramifications. »

Dayal thanked the civil society, including « well-meaning Hindu Activists, » for their « unstinted support » to the Christian community.

No help from the State

Based on the statements of the victims and presentations by human rights activists, the tribunal noted that « demonization of minorities, both Muslims and Christians, and their consequent marginalization and physical attacks have been noticed all over the country, particularly in the states where the BJP is in power, like Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Gujarat. »

In these cases, the victims have failed to get any help from the State. The role of the police is particularly dubious, as in most cases, the victims were not even able to file an FIR (first information report). It is often noticed that the victims are turned into perpetrators of crime. As a result, there is a sense of helplessness that the minorities feel.”

Rights activists also deplored the role of the media, mainly local newspapers in vernacular languages, in inciting anti-minority violence.

The tribunal was an initiative of Shabnam Hashmi of Anhad and attorney Colin Gonsalves of the Human Rights Law Network.

By Michael Ireland, Journal Cheiritan  , Sunday, 01 April 2007

50,000 caste related cases against Dalits are still pending in Uttar Pradesh, India

February 8, 2007

 India fails to protect its lowest castes – panel

In Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, around 50,000 caste-related cases against Dalits are pending. But only four have been resolved by fast-track courts since 2002.

Dalits in rural areas were often discouraged by police from filing reports, Verma said, adding the actual number of attacks or incidents of discrimination in 2005 — the year for which figures were last compiled — were probably around 150,000.

Though India has reserved government jobs and college seats for Dalits and a Dalit is currently the chief justice of the Supreme Court, the community remains among the poorest and most socially and economically deprived.

In December, a hungry Dalit girl from the eastern state of Bihar had the fingers of her right hand chopped off by an upper-caste land owner for taking spinach leaves from his field.

In another case, all upper-caste passengers walked out of a bus in southern India when a Dalit got on, the commission said, according to a report it received last year.

“It is to be regretted that even after 57 years since untouchability was ‘abolished’…we are unable to implement successfully basic provisions (of laws protecting Dalits),” Vaghela said.

Kamil Zaheer, Reuters, Tue Feb 6,2007,

Dalit atrocity cases: Just 15% convictions

December 14, 2006

NEW DELHI: When the Prime Minister termed continuing atrocities on Dalits a “national disgrace” at the week-end conclave of chief ministers, he was not way off the mark. Not only are caste-inspired crimes refusing to end, even the redress mechanism is failing to deliver.

Consider this. The conviction rate under SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act is 15.71% and pendency is as high as 85.37%. This when the Act has strict provisions aimed as a deterrent. By contrast, conviction rate under IPC is over 40%.

The high acquittal rate appears to be a direct fallout of police delay in booking the guilty. A study on POA Act, by S Japhet of National Law School, has laid bare reasons behind the low conviction, while also revealing how ground is prepared for acquittal at the investigation stage itself.

Of the 646 cases studied by the NLS team from POA courts of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, 578 were disposed of and 68 are pending. Just 27 of the decided cases resulted in conviction; 551 in acquittal. On the whole, 13 acquittals were reported from AP and TN each, and one from Karnataka.

The study notes that while POA cases are disposed of possibly as fast as those under IPC, with an average period of two-and-a-half years, the police all along appeared to facilitate acquittal rather than conviction.

While an average six days were taken to file an FIR, it took as many as 260 days on average to file chargesheets in cases of atrocities against Dalits.

Maximum period for chargesheeting under CrPC is 90 days. The long delay at this stage, the study says, proves crucial in the final adjudication.

Southern states have set up exclusive courts to deal with POA offences besides designating certain courts like district sessions courts as special courts to facilitate Dalit cases.

These exclusive courts have improved the situation to an extent but, on the whole, conviction rates remain abysmally low.

On an average, the study found that arrest of the main accused took 25 days in exclusive courts and 98 days in designated courts. “They are neither given top priority nor are investigations completed within the shortest possible time,”it states.

Also, more than 450 days are taken by the two types of courts to start the hearing after the submission of chargesheet.

The report says, “Huge intervals between various stages of case processing need some serious attention because they are working against the whole idea (of justice to Dalits).”

The nature of offences, too, are an eye-opener. The second most common offence under the POA Act — after atrocities to humiliate — is outraging of modesty of SC/ST women. As the study notes, “It indicates a tendency to use the dominant caste position to sexually exploit Dalit women.”

Subodh Ghildiyal,12 Dec, 2006 TIMES NEWS NETWORK