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PROFESSIONAL WORK & BATTLE AGAINST “UNTOUCHABILITY”

   Upon completing his education abroad, Ambedkar returned to Bombay as a barrister, established a successful legal practice and, in 1924, founded the Bahishkrit Hitkarini Sabha (Association for the Depressed Classes) to promote the spread of education among the socially and politically downtrodden, to improve their economic status, and to provide a voice for their grievances.  Between 1927 and 1932, Ambedkar led a series of nonviolent campaigns to assert the right of “Untouchables” to draw water from public tanks & wells and to enter Hindu places of worship.Ambedkar (painting)  Especially important was the satyagraha (nonviolent civil disobedience) he led in Mahad where tens of thousands of “Untouchables” protested successfully for their right to use water from the public Chowdar Tank, which had been traditionally prohibited to them (though animals were allowed to use the water!).  
   In a conference in late 1927, Ambedkar public condemned the classic Hindu text, the Manusmrti (Laws of Manu), for ideologically justifying the system of caste discrimination and “untouchability,” ceremonially burning copies of the ancient text.  Increasingly unpopular with dominant caste Hindus, Ambedkar became even more so due to his insistence on the need for separate electorates for the depressed classes.  When the British granted this demand, Gandhi, who felt strongly that this would divide society in future generations and prevent the political and social unity of Hindus, went on a fast until death in protest of the decision.  Under massive pressure, in 1932 Ambedkar joined with Gandhi in signing the Pune Pact, in which the demand for separate elections was dropped and replaced with special concessions like reserved seats for “Untouchables” in legislative assemblies.

VIEWS ON RELIGION & ROLE IN CONSTITUTION

   Over time, Ambedkar became increasingly critical of orthodox Hinduism, which he saw as inextricably linked to caste discrimination, and at the Yeola Conversion Conference in 1935, he stated famously, “I was born as a Hindu but will not die as a Hindu;” and exhorted his followers to leave Hinduism and join another religion.  Ambedkar was also fiercely critical of certain aspects and practices of Islam, especially child marriage, the mistreatment of women, and narrow literalist interpretations of Islamic doctrine which prevented positive social reform within Muslim society.
   In 1936, Ambedkar founded the Independent Labour Party and in 1942 he founded the Scheduled Caste Federation for the independent political assertion of Dalits.  Between 1941 and 1945 Ambedkar published a large number of controversial books and pamphlets which included criticisms of Hindu civilization, Gandhi and the Congress Party, and the Muslim League’s demand for a separate state of Pakistan.
   In 1947 India achieved independence and Prime Minister Nehru appointed Ambedkar the Minister of Law.  Despite his unpopularity and criticisms, Ambedkar was also appointed Chairman of the Drafting Committee for the Constitution of India and played the central role in its crafting.  In February 1948 he presented the Draft Constitution and it was adopted in November 1949 with all its 356 articles, including Article 11 which explicitly abolishes “untouchability” in all forms.
After resigning from the Cabinet in 1951, Ambedkar increasingly turned his attention towards Buddhism. He began writing a book, The Buddha and His Dhamma—published a year after his death and today often considered his magnum opus—which articulated his understanding of the Buddha’s message and its contemporary relevance.  On 14 October 1956, in a formal public ceremony (which explicitly rejected and condemned Hinduism), Ambedkar converted to Buddhism along with over 300,000 followers.  This action sparked an ongoing Buddhist revival in India and a number mass conversions of Dalits to Buddhism have occurred since then.

   Bhim Raj Ambedkar died on 6 December 1956.  In 1990, he was posthumously honored with India’s highest national award, “Bharat Ratna” and his portrait was adorned in the Central Hall of Parliament.  His birth date is now a public holiday in India known as Ambedkar Jayanti.

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AgriculturalLaborers (ohanlon)

   Most Dalit victims of violence and discrimination are landless agricultural laborers.  In rural areas, where caste discrimination is most entrenched, land is the main asset determining an individual’s social status and standard of living.  Dalits’ lack of access to land makes them economically vulnerable and dependent upon their upper- and middle-caste landlords.  This economic dependency is often exploited by the landlords, allowing for many abuses against Dalits to go unpublished.  Furthermore, the effects of globalization—namely, the large tracts of land being provided to multi-national corporations and projects funded by the World Bank—have meant that millions of small and marginal farmers, most of whom are Dalits, are losing their land or having their land alienated each year. 

 

Laws and regulations exist that prohibit the alienation of Dalit lands, set ceilings on a single landowner’s holdings, and allocate surplus government lands to be re-distributed to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes; however, most state governments have consistently failed to adequately implement this land reform legislation.  Statistics show that government land reform policies are increasing the land holdings of non-SC households at a rate considerably higher than SC households.  Perhaps most significantly, in cases where Dalits have been offered land under agrarian reform legislation, many have been forced to refuse it for fear of dominant-caste backlash.  Since the dominant castes depend on the economic subjugation and exploitation of Dalits, and since Dalit land acquisition and ownership threatens this arrangement, land disputes often result in violence and abuse against the Dalit community (especially the destruction of their homes and property) as a means to “keep them in their place.”    Typically, in such disputes Dalit women are made the targets of violence in order to silence their male counterparts.**  [**Some information above taken from: Smita Narula, Broken People: Caste Violence Against India’s Untouchables (Human Rights Watch, 1999), p. 27-28.]

 

 

 

CASE STUDIES IN VIOLATIONS OF DALIT LAND RIGHTS

Below are some case studies documenting the extent to which land rights and atrocities against Dalits are closely interwoven:

Harvest (vic)
Dalit’s Lands Illegally Taken; Assaulted on Seeking Justice.  Amargadh Village, Bhavnagar District, Gujarat.  A Dalit (Lakabhai Nathubhai) was given 17 acres of uncultivable land by the government.  After working for nearly 40 years to make the land cultivable, four dominant-caste members of the village forcibly seized 15 acres of his land.  After writing to the authorities on four separate occasions, local officials finally came, conducted a measurement of the land, and found a clear encroachment by the accused dominant-caste individuals.  However, despite receiving written notices from the Magistrate, D.S.P, Collector, the accused refused to remove themselves from the land and on March 5, 2005, attacked Lakabhai with pipes, sticks, and hockey sticks.  Lakabhai filed a complaint with the police immediately, but it was only after he was discharged from the hospital two weeks later that the accused were arrested.

Dalit’s House Destroyed, Wife Molested Due to Land-Ownership.  Bhaniyana Village, Pokhran District, Rajasthan.
A Dalit couple (Tajaram and Bhawari Devi) are the only Dalits who own land in the entire village.  Not respecting them and wanting to take the land to extend the campus of a nearby private school, several dominant caste villagers sought to intimidate the couple.  On the night of December 7, 2006, these dominant caste members forcibly entered their house, molested and injured Bhawari Devi (failing in an attempt to rape her) and ransacked and destroyed everything in her home.  The police registered a report, but have taken no measures to protect the family and have not apprehended the accused.  

 

Physical Torture of Dalit Man Leasing/Cultivating Land.  Chhanbilla Village, Sagar District, Madhya Pradesh.  
In 2004, a group of Dalits, led by Phoolchand Ahirwar, together leased a land area from the Madhya Pradesh Irrigation Department for cultivation.  All other Dalits in the village were landless and entirely dependent on the dominant caste (Yadavs) for their livelihood.  In response to the successful Dalit initiative to purchase and cultivate land, on the night of December 20, 2006, Phoolchand was lured behind a shop at a bus stop where three dominant-caste villagers held him down, brutally cut his ears off with a blade, beat him with a stick until they broke the femur of his left thigh, and finally knocked him unconscious with a blow to the head.  When he and his family members attempted to register a report at the Police Station, the police initially simply toDominant Caste Members Cut-Off Water Supply to Dalit Lands.ok a signature on a blank sheet of paper and sent them home without registering a report.  Subsequently, the police connived with the perpetrators and actually registered two cases (Rash Driving or Riding, and Endangering Life or Safety of Others) against Phoolchand!  According to the most recent status check, Phoolchand has not been granted any compensation or assistance in paying his medical expenses from the government and the accused dominant caste members continue to threaten him.

21 Dalits Shot in Land Dispute.  Chamalpur Village, Allahabad District, Uttar Pradesh.
A disputed and unused piece of land was under consideration to be allotted to 7 Dalit families.  On the afternoon of 10 November, 2006, a dominant-caste member of the village along with his family began to erect a house on the land.  When the Dalits learned of this, they rushed to the police station to lodge a report.  The police officials discouraged and demoralized the Dalits and did not lodge the complaint.  The Dalits then returned to the land where they requested that the perpetrators stop working and showed them the stay order of the court.  In response, members of the dominant-caste Yadavs began to curse the Dalits and fired gunshots at them, injuring 21, six of whom were seriously injured.  No arrests have been made and no protection has been provided to the Dalits though they continue to receive threats from the perpetrators.

  
Dominant Caste Members Cut Off Water Supply to Dalit Lands.  Medjil Mandal Village, Mahaboob Nagar District, Andhra Pradesh.  
When two Dalit brothers (Korrala and Kesavulu Chennayya) began successfully (i.e. profitably) cultivating cotton on their two acres of government-given land in 2001, three members of the village’s dominant Reddy caste responded by forcibly building a bore-well on the Dalits’ land (a mere 15 feet away from the Dalits’ own well) and laying a 3km pipeline to their lands, thereby depriving the Chennayyas’ farm of a water supply and causing their crops to dry up from which they incurred major financial losses.  When Korrala Chennayya questioned these actions, he was beaten up.  Furthermore, he was denied access to the panchayat bore-well and forced to migrate in search of daily labor.  When he later attempted to cultivate his field again in 2005, he was attacked by the same three dominant-caste individuals and warned of dire consequences if he were to persist.  Despite filing an official complaint with the police, the accused have yet to be arrested and the Dalit victims are yet to receive any compensation for their losses.

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a scene from a rehabilitation camp , Tsunami 

 

India is prone to natural disasters because of its peculiar geo-climatic conditions. Floods, landslides, droughts, cyclones, earthquakes are recurring phenomena. Dalits are invariably the most vulnerable   section during any natural disaster and least likely to be able t o access to aid when it become available.
 Any disaster affects all sections of people across religions or castes. But the relief and rehabilitation programs during any major disaster in India are beset with the evils of caste-based discrimination. The authority and agencies involved in relief and rehabilitation program fail to provide relief with neutrality and impartially. 
The Gujarat Earth Quake in 2001 brought to the fore how caste based discrimination in relief and rehabilitation programs works. Against this experience NCDHR and other Dalit rights’ organizations started to monitor closely relief and rehabilitation programs during the wake of disasters.

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Rights to Criminal Justice
 

 

KhairlanjiAtrocity(bodies)

khairlanji (Maharashtra) one of the  latest incidents of gruesome violence against Dalits where all in  a family except one  was brutally killed by uppercastes

 

 

undertakes daily monitoring of secondary media sources (newspapers, internet, etc.) in order to find all reported Dalit Human Rights violations that have taken place in the 14 states in which we operate.  These findings are compiled on the basis of district and type of violence.  After compiling the cases, necessary actions like fact-finding missions, contact with concerned authority, advocacy, and court follow-up are taken up depending upon the gravity of the issue. 
NCHDR conducts its fact finding by visiting the places where the violation/atrocity has taken place and collecting first hand information regarding the incident.  The fact finding team is formed of trained staff members and other human right defenders, lawyers, and members of local organizations.  After collecting first hand information, the members of our Monitoring desk and legal team prepare the fact-finding report. This fact-finding report gives feedback to the government, duty bearer, NGOs, movements, and national and international human rights bodies regarding the incident, indicating steps taken by the duty bearer, and recommendations for bringing justice to the Dalit victims.
Our Legal desk assists in cases of Dalit atrocities and human rights violations, carrying out legal empowerment through legal aid and interventions in formal courts and criminal administration mechanisms, as well as meetings with various mandals, lawyers, activists, and members of commissions and NGOs who can help bring justice.
RESEVATION  AND  DALITS

Reservation policy has been one of the corner stones of Dalit  empowerment. But it   has been implemented half heartedly from the beginning .The Dalit job force   in the country concentrated   largely either on the   traditionally assigned   degraded low paid jobs or to low class sweeper jobs in  govt and supported services.
 15% of the  jobs in   state  and  state  supported departments to be  reserved for  the Dalits  according to the  existing  rule considering the population strength 16.5%  (Census report   , 2001). But  the vast private  sector  is  excluded despite  repeated  and long  demands from the  Dalit organization  to include it also  within the purview of  reservation .
Privatization of  public  sector units   have  already  pushed  majority of  the  Urban   Dalits  to  casual  labor  with the decline  of  salaried jobs
 By sticking  on    formal methods of recruitments, the   large  private sector  which opts for  higher education and  technical skills excludes the  majority of  the deprived sections.
This reinforcement of  past job  discrimination resulted in the over  representation of  Dalits   in the poorly paid dead end  jobs.
Whenever they tried to  shift  to  some  better  occupation    were  abused  or  beaten up by the  uppercastes. The prescribed   15% of  jobs  in all classes of jobs falls short  particularly in  higher class jobs.
 Dalits  are over represented in low class jobs like sweepers in public sector indicating  the caste based occupational  allocation  
The  back log of  SC/ST  appointment in  states  service is 25,000 and  10,00,000 in central govt Some vacancies under   reservation is not  filled  since  1978.About  54.30%in central govt departments,45.10% in public sector banks  and 88.18%  in public sector  enterprises.(National   Commission  for  Scheduled  Castes  and  Scheduled  Tribes Report  1996-97 &97 –98 , quoted in  A  Irudayam,Balck Paper1999.)

 
CASE STUDIES

1 Sexual  assault  and  forced labour

Sundarmmal,Muthunagar village,Coimbatore  district,Tamilnade

 Dalit cultivators in the village   were forced to become bonded laborers by the upper castes in the village. They were made to work for long hours on poor wages. Sundarammal and her husband thus became bonded laborers in the   godown owned by  upper caste  Varada Raj. He  never  paid them decently and the family  was in debt  .So they decided  to seek work under other  persons. But  Varadaraj  along with his community people  attacked the couple  and tried to  rape her on  January  27,2007.When  she  filed  complaint  she   was  again tortured to with draw the  case.

2 A Dalit employee in a public  School has  been  underpaid  since  he was hired in  1974.
Kedar  Ram .Senior Basic  School ,Ghazipur  ,Uttar Pradesh

 Kedar  Ram  was appointed as  safai worker in  govt aided  Senior Basic  School  in  Ghazipur in 1974.He  was drawing only  7 rupees  for  the first three years and then  13  rupees per month. In October 1991 it  was increased to Rs. 30/ . In  1998 it  was  increased  to Rs. 150/.The minimum wages  fixed  for an  unskilled  employee  is Rs.2600 / month

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A married Dalit woman was reportedly gang raped on Sunday near here at Sripuram village in the limits of Sindhanoor town police station. Chandramma, wife of Anjaneya Harijan, was the victim.

 

According to the sources, on Sunday Shivappa Kabber, Narashimhalu, Murthy and Amaresh raped Chandramma when she had gone to collect firewood near the stream in sripuram village. They also threatened her. On a complaint lodged by Chandramma, a case has now been registered in Sindhanoor police station against all the accused.

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A Dalit woman who went to collect sticks was reportedly sexually assaulted by three persons at Sripuram of Sindhnur taluk today.

 

The accused are said to be Shivappa Kabbar, Narasimhalu Murthy and Amaresh belonging to the same village. While she was returning back after collecting the sticks, the trio are said to have teased her. Later, they sexually assaulted her, according to the complaint filed.

 

Tension prevailed in the village and police have made elaborate security arrangements. The accused have been arrested and inquiry is being conducted.

 

ANOTHER CASE: Another incident of sexual assault took place at Vidyanagar Camp near Sirivar of Manvi taluk.

 

A woman, who was alone in the house, was sexually assaulted and threatened in case she disclosed the matter to anyone, according to a complaint filed.

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For the past 374 days, Chatrabhai Savabhai hasn’t taken a break in his fight to get justice for his son. Even for his daughter’s wedding. She got married on Friday from the same shack in the compound of the Banaskantha District Collectorate in Palanpur that the 55-year-old has been living in for the past year, demanding that the upper-caste ”murderers” of his son be brought to book.

 

Chatrabhai moved into the shack the day a post-mortem on his son Easabhai blamed ”uncertain” causes for his death. Easabhai had gone missing three days earlier and his bloated, dismembered body had been found behind some bushes in Morikha village of Vav taluka, where the family lives.

 

”I will die here if I am not given justice but I will not move from here,” says Chatrabhai. ”Many Dalits are killed in our villages, but the upper caste killers go unpunished.”

 

Chatrabhai insists his son was done to death by some members of the dominant upper caste of the village, with whom he had had a fight, mentioning six names. On the day he disappeared, Easabhai had said he was going to another village with one of the men with whom the family has had a 15-year-old quarrel over a plot of land.

 

Chatrabhai points out that the post-mortem report said the left arm was missing, Easabhai’s eyeballs were out of their sockets, the lungs were blue and the second rib was fractured. ”And yet it says the cause of death was uncertain,” he says.

 

When his daughter Radhaben’s marriage was fixed, he decided it would be held in the shack. Some 50 Dalits gathered for the wedding on Friday, despite a ban on such gatherings in the collectorate compound. There was no music, no mehndi ritual. The bride wore a simple sari, and the baraat arrived just half an hour before the rituals began.

 

There was hardly any display of joy, with the ghost of Easabhai hanging over the ceremonies. Radhaben herself said: ”I am not excited at all. My marriage is being held here to bring my brother’s killing out in the open. How can I be happy?”

 

Collector M.K. Das, away to a shrine near Mt Abu on some “urgent work”, was unavailable for comment. But Deputy Collector M.B. Patel said Chatrabhai is being obstinate. ”We have found no evidence against the accused. It emerged that they were somewhere else when the alleged killing took place.”

 

Patel also alleges that Chatrabhai might be trying to get a more costly piece of land in compensation. ”He wants 10 acres of land, worth Rs 5 lakh, in another village against the Rs 5,000-worth plot we are offering in his own village in compensation.” About the wedding, Patel says: ”We tried to persuade him to hold the wedding in a hall, but he would not listen. But what difference will this (the marriage) make?”

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