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Dalits In News,Jan. 18, 2008

by udaya — last modified 2008-01-19 14:54

NCM indicts Orissa administration for riots...


NCM indicts Orissa administration for riots




New Delhi, Jan 17 (IANS): The National Commission for Minorities (NCM) has indicted the local administration and the police of the riot-hit Khandamal district of Orissa for the communal violence on the eve of Christmas last year. It also hinted that Hindu organisations could have been involved in the violence.

The out-break of violence was a result of the long simmering conflict between Pana (Christian tribals) and Kui tribals, NCM member Dileep Padgaonkar said here Thursday.

Panas have been demanding reservation under the Scheduled Tribes category, which has been opposed by the Kuis. 

Another important factor, according to the commission, was the anti-conversion campaign conducted by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Sangh Parivar for the last few years. 

The NCM members maintained that they found no case of forcible conversion or conversion through inducements. 

The Kuis were also agitated as some Scheduled Castes Christians had allegedly obtained false caste certificates to benefit from reservations, the NCM said.

A two-member committee of NCM, comprising Padgaonkar and Zoya Hasan, visited the riot-affected districts of Orissa Jan 6-8. 

When asked whether the riots were well planned, Padgaonkar said, "There was enough evidence to suggest that the outbreak of violence in Khandamal was organised." 

"An anti-Christian atmosphere was created and there was large-scale destruction of Christian property." He added that the local administration did not take appropriate and quick measures to control the mob. 

Padgaonkar stated that 2,000 tress had been cut in a matter of two hours to block the roads leading to the riot-affected areas. "This was done to delay the patrol parties from reaching the riot-affected areas. It shows that the riots were organized," he said. 

The commission appeared divided on whether the Navin Patnaik government was lax in controlling the violence and also on the issue of Sangh Parivar involvement in the violence.

Hasan said, "From what we gathered, the VHP was in the background of the riots. But it is difficult to pinpoint that the men involved in the violence were from VHP." 

Padgaonkar said that Orissa Chief Minister Navin Patnaik appeared concerned about the riots. "He has promised to look into the issues that we discussed with him," he said. 

"The local administration should not have allowed two bandhs (strikes) on the same day, knowing fully well that a big Christian festival was so close," said another member of the commission.

The NCM has asked the Orissa government to increase the compensation amount paid to the victims, as the money given was meagre. 

"It should at least match the amount paid by other states in similar cases," Padgaonkar said. The speech given by Swami Lakshmananda - who allegedly tried to incite the locals-- should be examined to find out if he tried to whip communal passions, he added. 

Three people were killed - among them one Hindu and a Christian, while the identity of the third is yet to be established - in the communal flare-up Dec 25, 2007 in Khandamal district. Many Christian institutions - Churches, shops and schools -were destroyed in the riots.

Economic Times


Arjun rejects Maya's demand for packed food in schools


18 Jan, 2008, 0116 hrs IST,Urmi A Goswami, TNN


NEW DELHI: The human resource development ministry has rejected Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati's demand for pre-cooked and frozen food to be served in schools as part of the mid-day meal programme. HRD minister Arjun Singh has rejected the proposal on the ground that it violates the Supreme Court's order for providing fresh, hot and nutritious cooked meal to children.

Interestingly, Ms Mayawati's backing the idea of serving pre-cooked and frozen food in lieu of freshly cooked nutritious meal comes close to a similar proposal by packaged food companies. Ironically, Ms Mayawati's proposal contradicts the Supreme Court's effort to promote social equity. The apex court had directed that wherever possible women, and preferably Dalits, should be employed as cooks.

The mid-day deal meal programme saw an increase of 37% in allocation in the 2006-07 Budget. In 2007-08, the programme has been allocated Rs 7,324 crore. The programme has seen an enhanced outreach with mid-day meal being provided up to class VIII in 3,479 schools in educationally-backward districts. In the next financial year, the scheme will be extended to all districts. The financial outlay for the programme is Rs 48,000 crore for the 11th Five-Year Plan period. The increased allocation and a captive market has made the scheme a likely target of pre-cooked and frozen food manufacturers.

Mr Singh and his ministry are of the view that not providing the court-mandated freshly-cooked food would have adverse nutrition implications for the children. In November 2001, the apex court had directed that the government provide "every child in every government and government-assisted primary schools with a prepared mid-day meal with a minimum content of 300 calories and 8-12 gram of protein each day of school for a minimum of 200 days". 

The ministry is of the view that fortifying pre-cooked foods with supplements will not meet this requirement. Experts also suggest that the excessive presence of saturated fat and hydrogenated oils in pre-cooked and frozen foods is not healthy for children and may lead to obesity problems. There is also a school of thought that links encouraging frozen foods as pushing kids to consume junk food. 

The HRD ministry is also of the view that besides providing adequate nutrition the idea behind cooked meal is to provide food to local taste and promote community involvement in schools. The ministry directive requires that mothers of children be involved in the scheme.

Zee News


Chhattisgarh drops Dalit word to refer to Scheduled Caste


Raipur , Jan 18: The Chhattisgarh government has decided not to use the word Dalit to refer to Schedule Caste (SC) people in any of its departmental or legal correspondence, saying the word has no constitutional validity, an official statement said Friday.

In a circular issued to all the 18 district collectors, development commissioners, department heads and to the High Court registrar, the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Development department suggested that the term Dalit not be used while dealing with any matter related to people of the SC category.

'The circular has been issued as per the decision of the National Commission for Schedule Caste,' M K Raut, secretary of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe department, said in a release. 

'Sometimes the `Dalit' word is used in government letters and correspondences as a synonym to the SC community. Now, such reference will not be used in any government letters as `Dalit' is neither a constitutional word nor is it mentioned anywhere in any law of the country,' the statement said.

Scheduled Castes comprise 10 percent of the 20.08 million population of Chhattisgarh. Ten seats in the state's 90-member assembly have been reserved for the community.

The Hindu


Dalit word unconstitutional: SC Commission


Raipur (PTI): The National Commission for Scheduled Castes has asked the state governments not to use the word 'Dalit' in official documents, saying the term was "unconstitutional".

The Commission has stated that sometimes the word 'Dalit' is used as a substitute for Scheduled Caste in official documents, sources in the State Tribal Department said here on Friday.

After consultation with the legal department, the Commission said the word 'Dalit'is neither constitutional nor the word has been mentioned in the current laws.

Rather 'Scheduled Caste' is the appropriate and notified word as per the Article 341 of the Constitution, it said in a letter sent to all states.

Acting upon the order, the Chhattisgarh government has directed District Collectors and its departments not to use the word 'Dalit' in their documents, they said.



Shackling Water


When Dalits in Chakwara won the right to use the village pond, caste Hindus turned it into a sewer. SALMAN USMANI reports

ON MARCH 10, 1927, one of the first public battles Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar waged was the satyagarha at Mahad in Maharashtra. He had led 10,000 Dalits to assert their right to access the Chawdar tank at Mahad. Animals were allowed to use the water of the tank but not Dalits. The caste- Hindus retaliated to the satyagraha with violence and a social boycott. On December 25 the same year, Ambedkar burnt the Manusmriti — the symbol of Brahmanic Hinduism that offered scriptural justification for discrimination — at Mahad.

Eighty years later, nothing seems to have changed. Chakwara village, 50 km from Jaipur, bears testimony to this. The village and life in it revolve around a large pond. The pond and the ghats have been built and maintained with state funds and contributions from the entire village, including the Dalits. The village has about 700 families, of which 70 belong to Bairwas who are Dalits.

Over 20 years, the village has been in constant turmoil over the curbs Dalits face in using the pond. The caste Hindus of Chakwara do not let the Bairwas use the pond. However, buffaloes and pigs have unrestricted access.

On December 14, 2001, two Bairwas, Babulal and Radheysham, decided to defy the village "law" and bathe in the pond. Babulal, 54, says his decision to bathe had more to do with the "frustration of being denied clean water, rather than its necessity".

Outraged by this social offence the village Jats and Brahmins surrounded Babulal's house at night and threatened a bloodbath. The next day a panchayat was called which found Babulal and Radheysham guilty of violating the village customs. The panchayat imposed a fine of Rs 50,000 on the Bairwa community and demanded a written apology. Further the upper castes imposed a complete social boycott of the Bairwas. They could not buy ration and vegetables from the village shops; no one would employ a Bairwa or lend him money; the Bairwas were not to use the only handpump in the village.

After continued threats, confrontations and abuses, Babulal finally filed an FIR on December 22, 2001. The Jaipur district administration and the police ignored Babulal's complaints and tried to convince the Dalits not to use the pond, eventually making some of them sign a compromise agreement. However the boycott, the threats and the abuse continued for months, with the administration occasionally stepping in only to side with the upper castes.

In September 2002, several human rights organisations collaborated with the Bairwas to organise a rally in yet another effort to assert their rights. The upper castes decided to physically confront the rally. They attacked the rally with stones and sticks. The situation worsened and the police responded with teargas and finally had to open fire. Around 50 people were injured, most of whom were policemen. The rally and the confrontation temporarily and unintentionally put the administration and the upper caste men at loggerheads. Complaints were made and pursued in the collector's office.

IT SEEMED like a victory for the Bairwas, who started to use the pond regularly, but their triumph was shortlived. Soon after the clash, the upper castes withdrew from the pond. They stopped using it, saying it had become impure. The tension, anger and the boycott has continued since then. However, after the heightened interest of human rights organisations, NGOs, administration, the national and international media, Chakwara and its Dalits have fallen off the mindscapes again.

Today, the caste Hindus have started to shit and dump garbage in the pond. Recently, some men dug up the village sewer and directed it to the pond water. Every effort has been made to pollute the pond — literally and symbolically — for now it is only the Dalit Bairwas who use it.

In urban India, Dalits are forced to clean sewers and drains immersing themselves in putrid muck. In Chakwara, a pond that was once considered sacred is now no better than a large sewage tank. The Dalits here have after all fought and won their right to use it. But they continue to lose their dignity, for the caste Hindus of the village, defying Namdeo Dhasal's imagination, know how to "shackle the rushing form of water".



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