News Updates 19.05.12
Panel to fight targeting of Dalit youth- DNA
Drunk men set 14-yr-old Dalit ablaze in Vidisha- The Times Of India
MPs' protest against cartoon is vote-bank politics: Dalit activists - The Hindu
Dalits use cameras to record stories of discrimination- NDTV
1 lakh cases of SC/ST atrocities pending: Govt - The Hindu
State to encourage Dalit entrepreneurs - The Hindu
Dalit leader inaugurates Yeddyurappa's public contact office at Malleswaram- The Hindu
Panel to fight targeting of Dalit youth
A group of activists announced the formation of a defence committee to work towards securing the release of a jailed activist and others who have labelled Naxalites at the Mumbai Press Club on Friday. The youth belong to Kabir Kala Manch (KKM), a Pune-based cultural organisation.
Kabir Kala Manch is a Dalit organisation whose youth perform songs and plays on varied social topics - from workers rights to environmental issues, women's liberation to farmers' suicide, urban displacement and corruption.
While noted documentary filmmaker Anand Patwardhan pledged to donate the Rs51,000 award money for his film Jai Bhim Comrade towards the newly-formed committee, other members of the civil society who showed their solidarity with KKM were actor Ratna Pathak Shah, Prakash Reddy of CPI, Dr BR Ambedkar's grandson Anandraj Ambedkar, former IPS officer Sudhakar Suradkar, Com. Prakash Reddy, advocate PA Sebastian and Dalit poet JV Pawar.
Stating that the civil society should support jailed musician-poet Deepak Dengle, also part of his movie, Patwardhan said, "KKM members are against class and caste atrocities. If we don't give people that space, then we will be responsible for militancy."
While Dengle is in prison, many other members, including lead singer-poets Sheetal Sathe, Sagar Gorkhe, Ramesh Gaichor and Sachin Mali of Jai Bhim Comrade fame have gone underground after the police charged them with being Naxalites, said a press release.
Actor Ratna Pathak Shah said, "The voice that speaks against injustice must not fall silent. Their art is born out of their firsthand experience and that has validity in a world where everything is second-hand. The state cannot stop this voice."
The Times Of India
Drunk men set 14-yr-old Dalit ablaze in Vidisha
BHOPAL: Three men apparently under the influence of liquor, set a 14-year-old Dalit boy afire after dousing him with country liquor in Vidisha town, 60 kms away from here.
The boy's fault was that he refused to fetch glass tumblers for the three. The boy, Rajesh Ahirwar, sustained 40% burns and is hospitalized at the district hospital.
At 10 pm Vijay Jadon, Prem Pal Singh Gadariya and Sanju Ahirwar reportedly queued-up outside a liquor shop in Kararia Chouraha on the outskirts of Vidisha. They already had several rounds of country made liquor but wanted to continue with their binge.
The boy, Rajesh, had hardly thought that ignoring the order of the accused would cost him his life. They purchased more country liquor from a nearby shop and were walking towards an open space to consume it when they realised they needed glass tumblers.
The drunken men spotted a young boy sitting on a bench near a roadside 'paan' stall. The teenaged boy, a student of class VII, was playing with a stick. The trio approached Rajesh and asked him to fetch three glass tumblers from his home. The boy refused and got busy with his play.
Before Rajesh could understand what happened, one of the accused allegedly doused him with the country liquor left in his bottle and the other walked over to paan' shop.
They snatched a lantern from the shop and threw it at the boy. People rushed to inform the boy's family after which Ahirwar rushed his son to the hospital. "There was no electricity and it was warm inside the house hence my son had gone out to play in the cool breeze,'' said the victim's father Ram Pravesh Ahirwar.
The incident occurred less than 25 feet from the local Kararia police station. Father of the victim alleged that his son was set on fire by hoodlums and no one from the police station came to help or take the boy to the hospital.
DGP Nandan Dubey ordered an inquiry into the incident by inspector general of police Vijay Yadav. Police said a case has been registered against the three under sections 307 (attempt to murder), 294 (obscenity), 506 (criminal intimidation) of the IPC and relevant sections of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act.
MPs' protest against cartoon is vote-bank politics: Dalit activists
Activists and Dalit intellectuals have expressed concern over the move to carry out changes in NCERT textbooks, in the wake of the recent controversy over an Ambedkar cartoon. What happened in Parliament, where a section of members raised the issue of the 1949 cartoon by Shankar Pillai published in a Standard XI Political Science textbook, was a brazen attempt at wooing the Dalit vote bank, they charged at a meeting here. The NCERT books were well-produced and of high quality, they asserted.
The People's Union for Civil Liberties, Rajasthan; the Centre for Dalit Rights, the Janwadi Lekhak Sangh, the Bharatiya Gyan Vigyan Samiti (BGVS) and Idara termed the controversy "uncalled for." The groups have decided to organise meetings to read out contents from all banned textbooks, including "300 Ramayanas," and hold exhibitions of the banned cartoons.
"What is extremely disturbing is the manner in which Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal apologised in Parliament, and conceded the demands for removal of the cartoons and stopping of distribution of books," said a statement issued by the groups.
"We are certain that there's nothing objectionable in the Nehru-Ambedkar cartoon by itself, and the text accompanying it. In fact, it is highly appreciative of the hard work by the Constituent Assembly under the leadership of Dr. B. R Ambedkar."
Leading Dalit activist and Centre for Dalit Rights chairman P. L. Mimrot said, "In fact, it appeared to me, that it was for the first time, Baba Saheb received this kind of prominence in an NCERT book."
Describing as "cowardly" the attack on Suhas Palsikar, who has since submitted his resignation as Chief Adviser to the NCERT (Political Science), Dalit activist and editor of Diamond India Bhanwar Meghwanshi, said: "If the caption is read with the cartoon, no one can find fault with it."
Rajeev Gupta, Professor of Sociology in Rajasthan University, termed the whole episode an affront to freedom of expression and attack on Ambedkar himself.
"The whole attitude reeks of fascist tendencies. The Minister ordered the removal of the cartoons, even without referring the matter to an academic committee."
It was pointed out that out of the 32 cartoons in NCERT books, 16 pertained to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.
'Education implies openness'
"In the past also, texts have been deleted, and books have been tampered with, and people have had cases filed against them, merely in the name of upsetting public opinion.
"It is important to know that the endeavour of education isn't to indoctrinate the minds of the young, or teach them any one ideology… Education essentially implies having openness towards all points of view.
"The young must know that there are many dimensions to any issue," said the statement signed by Prem Krishna Sharma, Kavita Srivastava and Radha Kant Saxena of the PUCL, Rajasthan; M. Hasan of Idara; Komal Srivastava of the BGVS; and academicians and activists Prakash Chaturvedi, Vishwambhar, Rajeev Gupta, Rajendra Saiwal, Govind Beniwal and Shiv Singh.
Dalits use cameras to record stories of discrimination
Mumbai: One video shows police beating protesters with sticks. Another shows two lifeless, dirty bodies dragged from their workplace in the sewers. In a third, a man explains why his hand was slashed.
The disturbing clips and personal stories have a common thread: all the victims are "untouchables", now known as Dalits, who are at the bottom of India's rigid Hindu caste hierarchy.
The Dalit with the cut hand says he was harmed for drinking from a pot meant for higher castes, while filthy and dangerous sewer work is a profession reserved for families of the lowest caste.
Such everyday discrimination is nothing new, but it is rarely documented with such intimacy and insider knowledge in India's mainstream domestic news media.
"The mainstream media just report on the superficial events but they don't have depth," said Amol Lalzare, a Dalit and one of the "community correspondents" working for Video Volunteers, a media and human rights group.
"I stay here, I know what's going on, and I also want to give solutions through my news clips," added Mr Lalzare, who makes videos in the Mumbai slums with a camera not much larger than a mobile phone.
The 27-year-old documents a range of issues affecting the poor, from water shortages and poor sanitation to corruption and sexual harassment in the slums, where more than half of the city's residents live.
In their recently-launched campaign against caste discrimination, including a petition to properly end the illegal practice, Video Volunteers from across India have released footage to show the problem is still entrenched.
They captured Dalit women who take their sandals off to walk past the "big people's houses", a barber admitting Dalits don't come to his shop, and a school where Dalit children eat separately.
"It makes me nothing but angry," vented one female interviewee.
Kumar Ketkar, editor of the Dainik Divya Marathi newspaper in Mumbai, agreed that marginalised communities rarely draw attention from mainstream news outlets.
"Their normal everyday life does not get adequate coverage," he said, blaming the problem on the media's need for revenues from advertisers, who target a middle-class audience with "consumer potential".
Mr Lalzare and his colleagues earn 1,500 rupees (29 dollars) for each report and 5,000 rupees (95 dollars) for an "impact" video, showing some kind of change as a result of their work.
They number about 60 nationwide and contribute to the Video Volunteers' "IndiaUnheard" news service, which since 2010 has published regular clips online and sometimes at screenings for the communities concerned.
Topics broadcast so far include gender inequality in farm workers' wages and child marriage -- one interviewee was a 12-year-old cattle grazer married off three years earlier.
The project was set up to focus on "specific places where the media wasn't functioning," said American founder Jessica Mayberry, who is based in the southwestern holiday state of Goa.
She said the problem was more extreme in rural communities, giving the example of eastern Jharkhand state, home to a largely tribal population but without a single journalist of tribal origin in the regular press.
"It's a question of representation. Seventy per cent of this country, the poor, is coming through this filter of the outsider who doesn't live there," she told AFP.
The income for Video Volunteers is currently about two-thirds donations -- from social entrepreneurship foundations and individuals -- and one third revenue from selling content and training.
The service is among various projects that have sprung up in recent years harnessing technology to give a voice to hundreds of millions of marginalised Indians who feel ignored by the media and the political class.
Bangalore-based website www.ipaidabribe.com offers a place for users to vent their anger and share experiences of corruption across the country, where bribes and kickbacks are routine.
PN Vasanti, director of the Centre for Media Studies in New Delhi, said the mainstream news channels were still dominated by politics, crime, sport and entertainment, but she thought social issues were gradually gaining ground.
"It's an evolution of news media and evolution of the audience. They are learning to demand what they want," she told AFP.
1 lakh cases of SC/ST atrocities pending: Govt
With over one lakh cases of atrocities against SCs and STs pending, the government is considering amendments in the existing law to fast-track trial, the Rajya Sabha was informed on Thursday.
Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Mukul Wasnik said during Question Hour that a concept note was sent to state governments for comments on amending the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
He said that out of over one lakh cases of atrocities pending at the end of 2010, the highest number of 19,939 cases were pending in Uttar Pradesh, followed by 13,590 cases in Madhya Pradesh.
Rajasthan had 11,524 cases pending at the end of 2010, Gujarat - 9,437, Odisha - 8,826, Bihar - 7,776 and Karnataka -6,044, he said.
Wasnik, who did not specify the proposed amendments, said six states had not yet given their opinion.
He said states were being impressed upon to set up special courts to try cases of atrocities on SCs and STs in places where conviction rate is low, pendency is high or registration of cases are high.
He also said public prosecutors would be denotified if they did not perform their job well.
State to encourage Dalit entrepreneurs
The State government is committed to promote entrepreneurship among Dalits and will consider setting up a separate cell in the State Financial Corporation, Minister for Major Industries and Sugar J. Geetha Reddy said.
Addressing a seminar on opportunities and obstacles for SC/ST entrepreneurs, organised by Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DICCI), here on Friday, she called on Dalit entrepreneurs to focus on the training of employees.
The government has been proactive and has taken a number of steps to remove the barriers for promoting Dalit businesses like scrapping the 'ineligible' list of industries, she added.
Venture capital fund
Congress MP G. Vivekanand said that a Dalit venture capital fund would be ready next year. He urged the government to rope in the CII to identify the projects that Dalits would be able to take up and allocate funds to promote entrepreneurship among them.
He said timely repayment of loans would increase the standing of Dalit entrepreneurs among banks.
Welcoming the slow and silent transformation of Dalits from docile job seekers to aggressive entrepreneurs, Commissioner of Industries R Karikal Valaven said economic uplift is the first step to development of the community.
He cautioned the Dalits against falling prey to private non-bank financial companies.
President of DICCI N Ravi Kumar said the quality of products of enterprises owned by Dalits had won appreciation of leading industrialists such as Ratan Tata and Adi Godrej who had decided to source 25 per cent of their purchases from them. Minister for Small Scale Industries G Prasad Kumar also addressed the gathering.
Dalit leader inaugurates Yeddyurappa's public contact office at Malleswaram
The former Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa on Friday opened his Public Contact Office on the premises of the BJP's old office on 17th Cross, Malleswaram, here.
According to sources in the BJP, Mr. Yeddyurappa opted for a new office here as the place is considered lucky for the occupant. Mr. Yeddyurappa conducted religious ceremonies in the office, attended by his followers.
The attendees included Cabinet Ministers, Umesh Katti, Shobha Karandlaje, V. Somanna, C.M. Udasi,
Basavaraj Bommai, legislators Suresh Gowda, C.C. Patil, Sashil Namoshi, B.P. Harish, S.R. Vishwanath.
It is significant that barring the photo of the former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, no other BJP's leaders' photos were visible in the office. A Dalit leader from the Mysore region Siddaiah inaugurated the office.
After deciding to vacate his residence on Race Course Road, where he lived as Opposition Leader, Deputy Chief Minister and the Chief Minister for eight years, he was searching for a place to meet people coming to seek his help.
"I will be available to people for four hours a day here, during my stay in Bangalore. This office will serve the people irrespective of their party affiliation," he said.
However, the former Chief Minister refused to attach any political significance to his decision.
"I have decided to open the office to meet the public, as it would be difficult to have a space in the BJP headquarters for myself, in the absence of a responsible position in the party," he added.
People from all walks of life could meet him and he would take up their issues with the Chief Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda and the Ministers concerned, he said.
He denied that the new office would become a parallel power centre.
His role would be to act as a mediator between the Vidhana Soudha and "Krishna" (official residence of the Chief Minister) and the people. "In fact, I do not want to topple the Government," he maintained.
On behalf of
Dalits Media Watch Team
(An initiative of "Peoples Media Advocacy & Resource Centre-PMARC")
Peoples Media Advocacy & Resource Centre- PMARC has been initiated with the support from group of senior journalists, social activists, academics and intellectuals from Dalit and civil society to advocate and facilitate Dalits issues in the mainstream media. To create proper & adequate space with the Dalit perspective in the mainstream media national/ International on Dalit issues is primary objective of the PMARC.