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Friday, September 4, 2015

Key Accused in Caste Riots Held.Dalits Media Watch - News Updates 04.09.15

Dalits Media Watch

News Updates 04.09.15


-- Key Accused in Caste Riots Held - The New Indian express

http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/tamil_nadu/Key-Accused-in-Caste-Riots-Held/2015/09/04/article3009658.ece

Patel community's quota demand may face strong resistance from OBC members - The Economic Times

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/patel-communitys-quota-demand-may-face-strong-resistance-from-obc-members/articleshow/48795582.cms

Do The Schools In India Reproduce Social Inequalities? - Counter Currents

http://www.countercurrents.org/sindhi030915.htm

Justice continues to elude Kandhamal - The Hindu

HTTP://WWW.THEHINDU.COM/OPINION/LEAD/JUSTICE-CONTINUES-TO-ELUDE-KANDHAMAL/ARTICLE7612329.ECE

Collective crusade - India Today

http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/dalits-communal-farming-collective-crusade/1/464831.html

 

Note: Please find attachment for DMW Hindi (PDF)

 

Please Watch :

The Holy Wives !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

A Documentary On Devadasi System.

http://www.ndtv.com/video/player/prime-documentaries/the-holy-wives-a-film-based-on-the-ritual-sex-slavery/334948

 

Directed by Ritesh Sharma, the film The Holy Wives documents the life of a woman, who is raped in the name of tradition even before she could understand the meaning of sex and the impoverished life that she leads till death. It also goes deep into the struggle a woman from this community forges to maintain her dignity and self-respect. This film also brings out the lives of three different communities who have been victimized in the name of caste based sexual exploitation in this country. It's an attempt to present an insight to the poor and pathetic condition of people who still are not free from the clutches of social evils and who in order to meet their ends are forced into the brutal act of either selling themselves or their kin to others. 

 

The New Indian express

 

Key Accused in Caste Riots Held

http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/tamil_nadu/Key-Accused-in-Caste-Riots-Held/2015/09/04/article3009658.ece

 

By Karal Marx L , Published: 04th September 2015 04:15 AM , Last Updated: 04th September 2015 04:23 AM

 

VILLUPURAM: Weeks after a communal clash broke out in Seshasamudram village between Dalits and caste Hindus over an Amman temple car procession, police arrested the village president from Kaatu Edaiyar village near Rishivandhiyam on Wednesday afternoon.

 

Police, after registering a case under three sections, remanded him at the Vellore Central Prison the same night. Local sources said for his personal political gain, the village president, Subramani of the DMDK, destroyed the unity of the villagers by instigating a caste clash between Dalits and Vanniyars on August 15.

 

So far, 10 houses, a cow shed and the Dalit temple car, besides several other valuables and documents belonging to Dalits, have been burnt at Seshasamudam.  In his confession before the police, Subramani had said that the DMDK made him contest for the Seshasamudram village president post.

 

 To win the election, Subramani, a Vanniyar community man, handed over Rs 1 lakh to the Dalit villagers, claiming that it was his contribution to build a temple car for the Muthu Mariamman temple.

 

The car was built and consecrated in 2009. Subramani had also secured a majority of the Vanniyar community votes.

 

The Dalits, who arranged to conduct the car procession in 2012, had put up posters across the village thanking the current DMDK village president Subramani and former AIADMK village president Chinna Durai (also a Vanniyar) for helping them build the temple car.

 

SubramaniConsidering it to be an ignominy to permit the Dalits to conduct the car procession, Subramani and Chinna Durai created hurdles for the Dalits to conduct the procession.

 

Later, joined by the Vanniyar community members, both of them stood against the Dalits' car procession, stating they should not use the village common road to take out the procession.

 

After giving a fake report that a communal clash would erupt in the village, Subramani stopped the district officials from granting permission to the Dalits for the procession.

 

On August 13 this year, when the 16th peace meet was organised by Villupuram Collector M Lakshmi, she had granted permission to the Dalits for the car procession.

Irked by this, Subramani, Chinna Durai, Aiyya Swami and other Vanniyar community members had planned to attack the Dalit members and torch the temple car.

 

On the evening of Independence Day, a mob comprising 500 Vanniyar members disconnected the power supply to the Dalit colony and entered the village, torching all Dalits' houses. Petrol bombs were hurled at the temple car and on a few of the Dalit residents close to the Muthu Mariamman Temple. They also hurled petrol bombs and pelted stones at the policemen and Dalit villagers.

 

In the attack, around 40 Dalit villagers, eight policemen and three revenue officials, sustained injuries. Following this, police booked a case on 150 Vanniyar community members including Subramani, Chinna Durai, Aiyya Swamy. Also, they have so far remanded 87 caste Hindus in connection with the clash.

 

According to Subramani, apart from him, more than 100 Vanniyar men including former AIADMK president Chinna Durai and a friend Aiyya Swamy had together planned the attack on the Dalit villagers.

 

Police, who registered a case under 15 sections of IPC including 307, 436 and SC /ST Act, remanded Subramani at the Vellore Central Prison.

 

The Economic Times

 

Patel community's quota demand may face strong resistance from OBC members

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/patel-communitys-quota-demand-may-face-strong-resistance-from-obc-members/articleshow/48795582.cms

 

By DP Bhattacharya, ET Bureau | 4 Sep, 2015, 04.00AM IST

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GANDHINAGAR: The fissures along the caste lines are only deepening in Gujarat. While on one hand, the Patel community is not showing any sign to soften their stand on their demand for quota, the members of the Other Backward Communities too are now preparing to put up a strong resistance. 

 

The OBC Ekta Manch, a confederation of the 146 OBC communities in Gujart that had come up after the Patel community had raised their demands for inclusion within OBC fold, held a meeting with the members of the tribal community leaders on Thursday in Ahmedabad. 

 

The face of resistance, 39 year old Alpesh Thakore said that the OBC Ekta Manch would now morph into OBC SC ST Ekta Manch and put up an united struggle to protect the reservation. 

 

"We have met the tribal leaders today and we shall meet the leaders from the Dalit communities on September 9," Thakore said. 

 

"We are now preparing a memorandum and have sought time from both the chief minister and governor," Thakore said adding that upon getting appointment, they would meet the Chief Minister and the Governor and present them with their memorandum with specific demands including protection of reservation. Meanwhile in a separate meeting, the Sardar Patel Group (SPG) had decided to raise funds for those killed in the recent violence after August 25 rally in Ahmedabad. 

 

Varun Patel, spokesperson SPG told ET that the outfit would soon move National Human Rights Commission on the police violence after Agst 25 rally. But the Patel reservation stir has already suffered a massive blow after the differences between Lalji Patel of SPG and Hardik Patel had surfaced and Hardikon Thursday reportedly told media that he would start meeting the Patdar MLAs from Friday

 

Counter Currents

 

Do The Schools In India Reproduce Social Inequalities?

http://www.countercurrents.org/sindhi030915.htm

By Dr.Swaleha Sindhi

03 September, 2015 , Countercurrents.org

 

Introduction

Educational inequality in India means a system under which all the sections of society are not given equal opportunity to get education whereas the factors which contribute to social inequalities and exclusion from schooling are social stratification, gender inequity, location and poverty. Together these factors form a complex nexus of exclusion. It is also a fact that educational imbalances are still the pressing academic discourses in India and amidst all the hue and cry "Free and Compulsory Education" as a mission has still not translated into a reality! There still exist differential educational attainments in many regions in India and the traditional caste based social disparities are transformed into class inequalities. One portion of population in India has attained universal literacy long ago while a major portion of population still striving to achieve it, this leads to harmful economic disparities, resulting in perpetuating the cycle of inequality across generations. The educational inequalities are not the sole determinants of economic status but they play an important role in creating disparities in earnings. Needless to mention the inequality in the educational access and participation has its roots in the patriarchal and caste based social structure, this caste based social structure worsens the already existing inequalities across regions, religion, and gender and among various social groups. The impact of educational inequality is adversely affecting the deprived sections and widening the gaps in school enrolment between the deprived sections and elitist of the society.

 

Therefore a prerequisite to actualize universal literacy can be decentralized, participatory approach to planning and management of education and good governance. Without good governance the new innovative Government strategies like Alternate schooling, Right of Children to free and Compulsory Education Act 2009 and the Articles (38, 15, 16, 17, and 21A) of the Indian constitution to safeguard various social groups and ensure equitable distribution of educational facilities will not be able to achieve its objectives. Another basic fact that remains hidden is the privatization of education. The privatization of education is also responsible for widening the gap between the elitist and the depressed class of the society for e.g. it proves to be beneficial to those who can afford education irrespective of the urban rural difference. It is also observed that the educational institutions in some regions are increasingly influenced by castes and communalism along with ineffective teaching and discriminatory attitude of teachers. Such an environment worsens the situation for future development of the depressed sections and sometimes results in discontinuation of their education.

 

Challenges in Educational and Social Inequalities

A cursory glimpse at quality of school functioning in India, gives ample evidence that all is not well in schooling facilities and quality of school functioning, there is still disparity in learning achievements. Researches reveal that there is a close association between the social background of children and their learning outcomes in rural areas and low achievers are mainly concentrated among deprived groups who have access to the government schools. Government schools may provide access but fail to provide a suitable learning environment or quality education. Many research finding reveal that schools both in rural and urban India suffers from inadequate infrastructure resources, untrained or undertrained teachers, irrelevant curricula and no measures of quality assurance mechanism. Small schools in particular often have fewer teachers than grades (16.6% of primary schools in India have only one teacher). This means teachers have to teach across grades, but many have little or no training in multi-grade pedagogy and the curriculum is geared towards mono-grade schools, where there is at least one teacher per grade, therefore there are many children learn little and are at risk of being silently excluded from the schooling process. Such challenges negatively affect the learning attainment of the socially backward communities who are mostly dependent on government schools for their education.

 

Last Word

Irrespective of so many programmes that have been instituted to help traditionally disadvantaged groups (SC, ST, and OBC) to attend school still the educational access and retention remains unsatisfactory within these communities. The major issue is that very little attention has been directed towards classroom processes that put these students at a disadvantage. Schools for children from the socially and economically backward communities can remedy the educational disparity where evaluation curricula and monitoring of outcome may help larger educational reforms and in a way help in bridging the education, and income gap. But that requires many innovative programmes. One such innovative model is set up by the Navsarjan in Gujarat that has schools with specially designed curricula for dalit children. Such models with effective innovative pedagogy can reduce the existing gap and prove helpful in forming many such schools in different parts of the country. Even though caste-based differences in education, income and other aspects of wellbeing have long been recognized in India and so many affirmative action's for "reservations" and other priorities for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes are included in its legislation still the goals social equity are far to be achieved.

 

(Dr. Swaleha Sindhi is Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Administration, The M.S.University of Baroda, she can be emailed: ms.swalehasindhi@rediffmail.com)

 

The Hindu

 

Justice continues to elude Kandhamal

HTTP://WWW.THEHINDU.COM/OPINION/LEAD/JUSTICE-CONTINUES-TO-ELUDE-KANDHAMAL/ARTICLE7612329.ECE

 

BRINDA KARAT

 

It is a matter of shame and sorrow that the Christian community in Kandhamal is subdued not because of its lack of courage but on account of the failure of the Centre and the State, the investigative agencies and the criminal justice system, including courts, to ensure it justice

 

It is seven years since the horrific communal violence against the Christian community engulfed the district of Kandhamal in Odisha, in August 2008. Recently, thousands of survivors gathered at the panchayat headquarter town of Raikia under the banner of the Kandhamal Peace and Solidarity Committee. It was not to relive the past. Survivors of communal violence rarely want to experience the trauma and the pain which rises to the surface of their hearts and minds with every retelling of those dark and terror-filled days.

 

The demand was straight and simple — that they be allowed a future.

 

Agenda of polarisation

On the surface, things look better. In the 2014 Odisha Assembly election, the Hindutva forces suffered a resounding defeat in this district, losing in all the three Scheduled Tribe reserved Assembly segments. In the previous elections in 2009, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had put up Manoj Kumar Pradhan, a man accused in two cases of murder of Christians and another 10 cases of arson and violence. He won from G. Udaygiri despite being in jail. 


The BJP reaped the harvest of the blood of innocents. Pradhan came out of jail within weeks of his election and it was an open secret that he used his clout to sabotage the processes of justice — by intimidating witnesses and instructing the police to go slow in the cases. But this changed in 2014, when the Congress and the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) emerged victorious. The Kandhamal Lok Sabha seat, which was won by the BJD candidate, comprises the Phulbani, G.Udaygiri and Baliguda Assembly segments in the district. The BJP candidate was relegated to third place. In the Assembly elections, the Baliguda seat was won by the BJD candidate. In G.Udaygiri, the Congress candidate won, while in Phulbani, the BJD emerged victorious.

 

But it would be quite wrong to assume that the agenda of communal polarisation has weakened in any way following the electoral defeats.

 

Leaders of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)-led organisations were freed within months of their arrests and have since resumed their toxic agenda of dividing equally poor communities, the majority of whom are below the poverty line, as they had done earlier, mobilising the largely tribal Kui community against the Dalit Pana community. This is ostensibly against the latter's demand for inclusion in the list of Scheduled Tribes, but when in reality it is targeting Dalits on a communal agenda as around 20 per cent of them are Christians. Tribals from the Kui Samaj who are Christians are also targets.

 

An important aim of the BJP and the RSS and its front organisations was to ensure that their people who had led and instigated the mobs in 2008 would be saved from punishment, and be available in order to further the communal agenda. In this they have largely succeeded; they have literally got away with murder.

 

Inadequate compensation

The facts speak for themselves. First, let's take the issue of compensation. It was said at the time that over 6,000 houses were burnt. The government revised this and brought the figure down to 4,818. Surveys of the extent of damage were made, much like in Gujarat, when the inmates were not present. How could they be present when they were displaced and living in the squalor of 14 relief camps that had been set up? It was estimated at the time that there were over 56,000 men,women and children, all Christians, who had to flee their homes. They lost all their belongings and the compensation package did not take stock of the goods burnt. The belongings of the poor are assumed to have no value.

 

For a house partially damaged, the compensation fixed was just Rs.20,000 from the State government and another Rs.10,000 from the Central government. For a fully damaged home, the compensation was Rs.50,000 from the State and Rs.30,000 from the Centre. The price of building materials is so high, that with this measly amount, it would be strange if one thought that the victim survivors could rebuild their homes. In reality, they could manage only makeshift structures. Today, these are there for all to see, dotting the landscape of this beautiful region, as asbestos or tin roofs over unplastered, half brick walls. None has a window or a door frame, no grills for security — the evidence of callousness. In all these years, the State government has disbursed only Rs.13 crore as compensation for damaged houses. A petition filed on behalf of the survivors is pending before the Supreme Court.

 

In the violence in 2008, scores of churches and educational institutions were destroyed. The only positive aspect is that while the Gujarat government is still fighting a case in the Supreme Court against giving compensation to rebuild the large number of mosques that were destroyed across that State following the 2002 riots, in Odisha, the BJD government, in principle, has accepted the Supreme Court suggestion for compensation for damage in Kandhamal, though the amount disbursed was negligible — Rs.70 lakh.

 

Poor conviction rate

Take the issue of registration and charge sheeting of cases and the arrests of the accused. It is shocking that around 11,000 rioters were given anticipatory bail which was not objected to by the police. Over 3,000 complaints were filed with the police, but they registered only 828 cases. Of these, only 605 were charge sheeted, and two of them were cases of rape.The pathetic level of investigation can be gauged from the fact that in 2015, there are still 228 cases pending investigation.

 

Independent inquiries at the time showed that between 80 to 100 people were killed, but the government officially registered only 39 as dead, of whom two were policemen, and three rioters. It is clear that from the beginning, the effort was to minimise the extent of the crime.

 

The victims have fared no better with the courts. In response to the Supreme Court's orders following a petition filed by Archbishop Raphael Cheenath, two fast track courts were set up in the district headquarters of Phulbani and which started functioning after March 2009. Meanwhile, the BJP used its powers to do everything to sabotage the process and intimidate witnesses. As a result, the conviction rate was extremely low in all the cases in Kandhamal. In 2010, the fast track courts were wound up as a result of very poor results.

 

According to the indefatigable activist-advocate, Dibya Parichha, who along with his small team has been defying threats while fighting the battle for justice in Kandhamal, there have been convictions in only two cases of murder. Ten of the accused have been given the life sentence. But today, each one of them is out on bail. The 33 other cases of murder of Christians have been closed for "lack of evidence".

 

In other cases, more serious charges have been closed and punishment given on lesser charges; 315 cases have been closed for "lack of evidence" and 4,232 accused people have been acquitted. There have been convictions in only 73 cases of the 605 people charge sheeted; 492 people have been sentenced for lesser offences, but they are all out on bail.

 

As of August 2015, there is only one man in jail, held for the gang rape of a nun. Even in this case, the other two who were convicted were given bail and are now absconding. It is as though nothing happened.

 

Shadow of terror

There are many other details available of the perpetration of gross injustice after one of the worst instances of carnage against the Christian community. The message that is clear to the victims is that peace is conditional to their subordination. It is a matter of deep shame and sorrow that the Christian community in Kandhamal is subdued not because of its lack of courage but on account of the utter failure of the Central and State governments, the investigative agencies and the criminal justice system, including courts, to ensure justice to it.


In contrast to this is the State's attitude to the Kandhamal Seven — the four Adivasis and three Dalits convicted and sentenced to life wrongly for involvement in the murder of the religious leader , Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati. The Maoists declared that they had killed him. Anyone going through the atrocious judgment will come to the inescapable conclusion of their innocence. Their crime is that they are Adivasi, they are Dalit, they are poor and they are Christian. Their appeal is pending before the High Court. While murderers and arsonists are given bail, the bail petitions of these persons have been rejected. They have been in the central district jail in Phulbani for the last seven years for a crime they did not commit.

 

In the end, along with the struggle for justice for the victim survivors of Kandhamal, the call to "Free the Kandhamal Seven," should resonate throughout the country; a call that will help heal the wounds and bring solace and confidence to those who had gathered in Raikia with a message for the world.

 

(Brinda Karat is a member of the CPI(M) Polit Bureau and a former Rajya Sabha MP.)

 

India Today

 

Collective crusade

http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/dalits-communal-farming-collective-crusade/1/464831.html

 

Dalits in Punjab are beginning to assert themselves through communal farming

 

Asit Jolly   |   September 3, 2015 | UPDATED 11:57 IST

There's a cheerily childlike spring to his step. You wouldn't believe that 52-year-old Karnal Singh spent 59 days in jail even as he nursed a severely crushed forearm-result of a brutal police lathi-charge. The stainless steel prosthesis doctors put in to save his battered limb still hurts, but for the first time in his life it's been worth all the pain.

 

On Baisakhi this April 14, after working as serfs for many generations, cutting and bringing in the crop of upper-caste Jat zamindars, Karnal Singh joined 700 other Dalits of Balad Kalan village in Punjab's Sangrur district, in the first real harvest of their lives-2,640 quintals of wheat sown, tended and collected from farmland they leased jointly from the panchayat. Now, they are looking to bring home an even more bountiful crop of paddy.

 

From seeding to eventually being allowed to reap the rewards, it's been a truly tumultuous and decidedly painful journey for 143 Dalit households in Balad Kalan.

 

Although a key 1961 legislation-the Punjab Village Common Lands (Regulation) Act-decrees that all panchayats in the state must mandatorily reserve 33 per cent of all available shamlat or common land for lease to Scheduled Castes (SCs), for years upper-caste farmers, local sarpanchs and revenue officials have invariably been complicit in hosting dummy SC claimants to deprive real Dalit families access to such holdings.

 

The story was no different in Balad Kalan. On June 27, 2014, Karnal Singh and his comrades, for the first time alerted to their rights by the Zameen Prapti Sangharsh Committee (ZPSC), a loose, Left-oriented coalition working for land rights in Sangrur, came out of their homes to battle a 500-strong posse of Punjab Police men. The riot-ready policemen had been called out to support panchayat and revenue officials attempting to subvert the auction of 121 acres of common land reserved for lease to SCs. "They (the police) were brutal," says Paramjit Kaur, 38, who spent weeks in a coma after a particularly vicious policeman repeatedly pounded her on the head with his baton. Forty-one Dalit men were charged with "attempt to murder" and incarcerated without bail for 59 days. This, until August 28, 2014, when the state administration and panchayat agreed on a 'samjhauta' and surrendered control of the land.

 

Balad Kalan echoes an unprecedented transformation that is overtaking rural Punjab, quietly but firmly challenging, even demolishing, age-old caste equations. Dalit collectives like in Balad Kalan have managed to take control of common land legally reserved for Scheduled Caste communities in as many as 16 Sangrur villages.

 

While Dalits have for long been agitating for access to land, the movement for village commons began to gather steam after 2008, when a group of youths in Benra village, 50 km from Balad Kalan, succeeded in rallying together all 250 Dalit households to gain control of nine acres-even forcing the district administration to cut lease rates. "Like in every other village, here too the Jat zamindars had proxies helping them bid for land that could only be leased to Dalits. We created a situation wherein no Dalit had the courage to stand in as a proxy for a zamindar," says Bahal Singh, 30, who helped raise the Kranti Pendu Mazdoor Union to lead the campaign in Benra.

 

Right through the summer and monsoon of 2008, every Dalit man, woman and child maintained a zealous vigil forestalling attempts by Jat landlords intent on grabbing land reserved for Scheduled Castes. "We physically surrounded and forced, even carried away, proxy claimants from the auctions," says Balbir Kaur, 65, who led Benra's Dalit women and schoolgirls to stand vigil at the land lease auctions.

 

Late in 2008, Bahal Singh and his friends succeeded in winning the lease for the nine acres, also paving the way for what must be documented as the first functional Dalit collective farm in Punjab. The nine-acre holding has been life-altering for impoverished households. Twenty-seven-year-old Harbans Kaur used to trudge for miles every day in search of green fodder for the lone cow her family struggled to feed. "There were days when I had to return with no more than a handful of weeds," she recalls. Increasing mechanisation and use of herbicides on farms increased yields particularly for crops such as paddy, but also meant that the weeds Dalit workers traditionally gathered as fodder were no longer available. Left to forage along irrigation canals and the fringes of Jat-owned farms, Dalit women invariably became targets of abuse.

 

Benra's Dalit women were understandably reluctant to describe the abuse but the Punjabi hinterland abounds with tales of oppression, from Bant Singh Jhabbar whose limbs were hacked off by a group of Jats for trying to protect his daughter from sexual abuse in January 2006, to the 16-year-old Dalit girl of Sangrur's Kalbanjara village who set herself on fire on August 5 this year reportedly to escape harassment by upper-caste youth.

 

In a deliberate departure from the traditional wheat-paddy cycle, all nine acres leased by the Dalit collective are planted with fodder crops-barseem (clover) and chari (sorghum)-all year round. And for as little as Rs 400 (half the market price) members of the collective can harvest one biswa (1/96th of an acre). But since there is limited land, each Dalit family is allowed no more than 10 biswa. The system, managed by an 11-member committee, works seamlessly, dividing the produce equitably, while ensuring sufficient earnings to bid for the land year after year.

 

"The chari this year is sweet like sugarcane," Bahal swears, happily chewing a stalk of sorghum.

 

Inspired by what had been accomplished in Benra, a group of eight Dalit girls in Matoi, a small hamlet outside the Muslim-majority township of Malerkotla, also decided to stand up for themselves. After a year this May, Sandip Kaur, 25, and her friends, all college students, won the lease for 17 bighas (3.4 acres) of land.

 

Although relatively small, Sandip's mother Amarjit Kaur says the holding is a "godsend" that now makes it possible for several Dalit families in the village to keep cows and buffaloes.

 

In Balad Kalan, where the Dalits possess a significantly larger land holding (550 bighas or 121 acres), the benefits added up to a virtual bounty. At the Baisakhi harvest this April, each of the 143 Dalit households received four quintals of free wheat and a trolley load of toori (dry fodder) and the right to harvest fresh fodder from 10 biswa land. The land also ensured round-the-year employment for 100 people as farmhands and occasional work for many more during the sowing season. "We also sold wheat worth Rs 24 lakh in the mandi and used the money to make a repeat bid for the land in May," says Rampal, 55, responsible for maintaining records for Balad Kalan's Dalit collective.

 

ZPSC convener Mukesh Malaudh, 28, who has been closely associated with the movement to reclaim reserved common lands, is convinced that collective farms are the only real solution for Dalit families to benefit from what is their right. "A third of the 1.54 lakh acres cultivable shamlat land in Punjab should legally only be in Dalit hands. But barring the handful of Sangrur villages, a major chunk of the holdings are usurped unlawfully by upper-caste zamindars," he says.

 

"Depriving Dalits of land has been part of an insidious design in which upper caste landlords and the establishment are complicit," says P.S. Verma, a Chandigarh-based academic and author of a pivotal early 1990s study of rural common lands in Punjab and Haryana. It is only with the organisational backing of some Left groups that villages in Sangrur and some others in the Doaba region (Jalandhar-Kapurthala-Hoshiarpur) are now making successful bids for their land, Verma adds.

 

Dalits in only a few dozen among Punjab's 12,000-plus villages have gained access to their share of the shamlat. The numbers, although small, are significant in a state like Punjab which has been increasingly in the grip of an agrarian crisis amid shrinking size of landholdings, rapidly depleting groundwater table and rising cost of pursuing the Green Revolution cropping cycle of wheat and paddy. Both with the fodder crops in Benra and the mix of fodder and wheat in Balad Kalan, the Dalit collectives are happily proving that farming can still be a mutually beneficial venture-making for distinctly better living and the sense of empowerment that land brings to deprived people.

 

News monitored by AMRESH & AJEET

 


.Arun Khote
On behalf of
Dalits Media Watch Team
(An initiative of "Peoples Media Advocacy & Resource Centre-PMARC")
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