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Dalits In News
November 04, 2007
Dalit woman takes to gun to fight injustice in Allahabad- Daily India 
Two chappatis per day- Times Of India
AIDWA to take up the cause of Dalit women- Hindu.com 
Black in White- The Pioneer
Daily India
Dalit woman takes to gun to fight injustice in Allahabad
By Virendra Pathak 
Allahabad, Nov.4: A lower caste woman has taken to arms to protect her family and a piece of land from some members of the backward caste land grabbers in Soraav Division of Uttar Pradesh's Allahabad District.  
Belonging to the Dalit community, Vidyawati's two sons were allegedly poisoned and another was brutally killed. His body was found on the rail tracks. It happened after she claimed her stake on her father-owned land following his demise.  
It anguished Vidyawati when some villagers' pressurised her to leave the village even when she was trying to handle life with a physically-handicapped husband and the two surviving children. The authorities look to have bowed down to mighty goons. "If our enemies can do it, so can I. Three of my children are dead and only two left alive. Moreover, my husband is handicapped. If I do not stand up for them, it would be impossible to survive and protect ourselves," said Vidyawati, in her early fifties.  
Unable to face the shocking attitude of fellow villagers, Vidyawati has taken to guns. 

Many villagers, however, support Vidyawati's decision to take up arms after being witness to her sufferings.  
"If she and her family had been provided security and justice, she would not have taken up arms. It is also true that her three sons were killed-- two of them were administered poison and another was killed and his corpse thrown on the railway tracks. She is a victim of grave injustice," said Shiv Kumar, a local resident.  
Vidyawati blames a family that actually belongs to the backward class Patel community for her trouble. The alleged family of Manik and his wife, who happened to be the then village head, has denied of having any involvement in the matter affecting Vidyawati's life. 

"Nearly 10 years ago, when my mother was the village head, she (Vidyawati) developed animosity. I did not favour her during that time and gave my statement in favour of the village head. Since then, Vidyawati has been making wrongful allegations and foisting cases," said Sarvjeet, son of Manik.  According to the police, the case lacks any strong evidence. 
"During the entire investigation, no such report about someone exploiting them due to enmity or her sons having consumed poison has surfaced. Whenever an incident is reported, necessary action has been taken," said Purend Singh, Circle Officer, Soraav Division.
Times Of India
Two chappatis per day
4 Nov 2007, 0321 hrs IST  , Freny Manecksha  , TNN  
Starvation deaths are headline grabbers. But when an entire community lives on the brink of starvation through the year it rarely merits a mention. One such group, the Musahars in Uttar Pradesh light their chula once a day, in the evening, and live on one meal. 

Last month, when I visited a Musahar tola (settlement) of some 25 families in Barrachawar Block of Ghazipur in eastern UP, the families were waiting for the males—the only earning members—to return with the daily wages.  
Rajmunna, one of the women explained, "We have no land. My family of eight is entirely dependent on daily wages of around Rs 10 to Rs 25. We eat two chappatis per head. A quarter kilo of dal must suffice for us all. Occasionally we get some vegetables like green peas that we make into a gravy."  
Rajmunna describes her chronic hunger as a "burning pit in the abdomen". She is unable to walk any distance without getting breathless. Rinku, a teenager, is noticeably ill and has been diagnosed with TB of the bones. She has not received any treatment. The Musahars claim that a health worker makes the rounds but demands Rs 10 per injection. 

Things get grimmer in August and September when there is low demand for agricultural labour. The chula is then lit once in two days. Basi (leftover) rotis are given to the children the next morning. "We have to give the children something to eat because if the hunger pangs get too much for them they run into the fields and gobble raw bhindi, which makes them ill," says an elder, Ram Prasad Vanbasi. A 2003 study by a student of the Indian Institute of Rural Management found that 90 per cent of the Musahar children below six suffer from malnutrition. Tuberculosis and rheumatic fever are common. 

There is no electricity in the tola. It gets waterlogged every monsoon forcing the families to shelter in the Block Development Office premises. Shifting their possessions is easy—all they own are string charpoys, kitchen utensils and a few tattered garments. 
One of India's most marginalised communities, the Musahars live largely on the banks of the Gandak and its tributaries in eastern UP and Bihar. They are believed to be tribals evicted when the British cleared forest lands. Small plots given in compensation were usurped by powerful landlords. A project conducted under the Poorest Area Civil Society programme (a development programme for India's 100 poorest districts) found that 60 per cent of Musahars were landless. Others own waterlogged, infertile plots.  
The origin of the community's name is interesting. Some Musahars claim it is because they ate rats. But Ram Prasad Vanbasi said the name was given because of the tribe's practice of ferreting out grain from rats' burrows. They are often stigmatised because of this association with rats. Without tribal status, they have no rights to access forest produce. They are bhumeens (landless). Mechanisation of agriculture has meant fewer jobs. 

On the day I visited Barrachawar the men had gone to trawl the ponds of a nearby village for a fruit called Ramdana, which they sell for Rs 40 per kilo. This kind of work is very labour-intensive. The Musahars social and political isolation was heightened when the British tagged them as a criminal community. In independent India they have remained vulnerable targets with the police forcing them to do begaar or forced labour.  
Kapil Deo Kesri, a Dalit activist, of the Purvanchal Rural Development & Training Institute recalls how in 1996 several members of the community had been rounded up by the police on trumped-up charges and he had to intervene to get them released.Consequently, Musahars have a great fear of authority. This is why they find it difficult to get Below Poverty Line cards. Forced to away from upper-caste villages, Musahar children who attend school are made to sit separately.  
Many do not even have the necessary papers to vote. An important landmark took place in May this year when, before the UP elections, two voluntary bodies—the Musahar Vikas Pahal and Musahar Manch—organised a dialogue between the voiceless community and different parties. All the candidates acknowledged the necessity of speedy land reforms to enable Musahars to earn a decent livelihood. But it will take much more that to help these 'dalits of the dalits' in a state ruled by a dalit chief minister. 
AIDWA to take up the cause of Dalit women
Suhrid Sankar Chattopadhyay 
More than half of Dalit women face domestic violence
SC and STs (Prevention of Atrocities) Act rarely invoked
KOLKATA: The rights of Dalit women will be taken up strongly by the All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA). At the ongoing eighth National Conference of AIDWA in Kolkata, a resolution was passed to unite all women to advance the struggle for the elimination of caste oppression, address the specific issues of Dalit women and ensure that the state fulfils its constitutional obligation to protect equal citizenship rights.
Dalit women continue to be victims of caste oppression, class exploitation and gender discrimination, the resolution states. They are not only forced to work in the most demeaning of occupations, but are also sufferers of sexual exploitation and violence both outside and within their homes. According to the National Family Health Survey – 3 more than half of Dalit women face domestic violence.
Subhasini Ali, president of AIDWA said, "in Uttar Pradesh, Dalit children are not served but thrown their midday meals, and Dalit teachers are not allowed to make the food for children of higher castes. Even in health centres, Dalit women are discriminated  against," she said.
AIDWA feels that the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act that has been put in place to serve as a deterrent against violence against Dalits is rarely invoked in cases of violence against Dalit women due to prejudice of the authorities. It has strongly spoken out against globalisation policies that are intensifying inequalities and the growth of upper caste ideology of Hindutva forces that have adversely affected the rights of Dalit women.
AIDWA demanded that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi resign and the CBI reinvestigate all cases related to the Gujarat massacre; the admissions obtained from the Tehelka exposure be treated as confessional statements; all cases be taken out of Gujarat and action be taken against the Public Prosecutors named in the expose, and against police officers involved.
The Pioneer
Black in White 

Chandabhan Prasad

During the Round Table conference in London, BR Ambedkar and Gandhiji fought a battle over the question as to who represented the untouchables. Within India, there is intense debate on who mirrors Dalits' sufferings and their geniuses. 
The question remains unresolved as many non-Dalit intellectuals, politicians and activists claim to be representing Dalits. 
While it is always great to have non-Dalits to speak up for Dalits, it often gets complicated, even disastrous, when they represent Dalits. For instance, when non-Dalits argue that Dalits ought to hold on to their traditions, they don't realise what it means to Dalits if they remain rooted to their traditions. 
By tradition, Dalits are to serve society without any rewards. This situation arises because non-Dalits will never know how it feels when Dalits have to skin dead cows or clean toilets. 
Do non-Dalits eager to represent Dalits camouflage themselves as Dalits or lead a life as a Dalit for some time to get a feel of being Dalits? 
The race-split US society, too, seems to have undergone a similar dilemma where many a White spoke for Blacks but the question remained about whether they could truly represent Blacks. The case of John Howard Griffin, a White novelist and journalist, deserves attention.  
Born in Dallas on June 16, 1920, Griffin went to France to study French and literature. At the age of 19, he joined the French Resistance Army and, later, the US Army. He lost his sight due to an illness. During the decade-long period of blindness (1947-57) he wrote two novels The Devil Rides Outside and Nuni.  
While Griffin became a known name in the American literary circles during his days of blindness, he regained eyesight after treatment. A pure humanist, he spoke for Blacks and worked for better race-relations in American society. 
But some issues kept bothering him - did he truthfully represent the Black cause? Did he know what it meant to be a Black? Did the White media correctly portray the sufferings of the Blacks? What could he do to capture the true picture of the humiliation Blacks underwent everyday?  
To address all these niggles, he decided to turn Black himself. What Griffin did was unthinkable. He went for medication, taking oral dozes of a medicine called Oxsoralen. In addition to that, he spent 15 hours a day under an ultraviolet lamp to darken his skin. He turned black but some patches of white remained. He dyed those parts. He shaved off his hair as that, too, was a marker of race and wore a cap all the time. He was now a complete Black.  
Passing off as a Black, Griffin travelled throughout the racially segregated States of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. He wrote his experiences in the Sepia magazine which had financed his project.  
Outraged by his reporting, White racists burnt his effigies and threatened him. But Griffin stood firm. His articles were later published in a book titled Black Like Me in 1961 and made into a film in 1963. 
Griffin won many awards and his book sensitised a generation of White Americans. He died in 1980 at 60. Many believe that he met with untimely death due to excessive dozes of the medicine he took in 1959. It was a great sacrifice a White man made to experience Black suffering in America. 
Hello, 750 million non-Dalits - children of Gandhiji. Would any non-Dalit do what Griffin did? It is so much easier to do so. No dozes of Oxsoralen are needed, no ultraviolet rays. All that is needed is to change the surname. 

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