Swachchakar Dignity

A blog to give you first hand reports on the conditions of Swachchkar community, their issues and concerns. A campaign for complete abolition of scavenging practices and brigning forth the growing voices of change with in the community.

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Learning through working. Working at the grassroots made me realise the big difference between those who claim to represent communities as well as the communities themselves. Common man is crushed between the ambitions of various individuals to lead and dominate. The dominant and high numbered communities will always dominate our discourse and the most marginalised are losing in this entire discourse. That is the reason why Mushahar remain at the marginalised and the issue of manual scavenging still not on our top agenda and to eliminate that the community has to decide its own organisations..

I am devoted to freedom of ideas and expression. I personally feel that we in the subcontinent want to dominate and control our discourse and each one of is a ultra nationalist in terms of their caste and community. Nationalism is not just national and political but it is equally in term of religion and caste. I feel each kind of nationalism is a dominant discourse which deny the dissenter a right to speak.

At the end, we all want to listen the truth suitable to us.. we have become expertised in the art of speaking truth of convenience. As long as that remain hall mark of our society and we speak to already converts, this society will remain stagnant, it will always try to control our ideas and choices. We need to oppose any such perception, ideas that want to control our mind and victimise us.

To understand India further, I feel, it is good to do foot walk, ( Padyatras) to various parts of the country. I have so far done it thrice covering nearly 1500-2000 kilometers. It is always interesting to see how people are coping their issues and what is the reason of their exploitation.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Campaign against Manual Scavenging

Volume 28 - Issue 01 :: Jan. 01-14, 2011
from the publishers of THE HINDU • Contents


Resisting indignity

Safai karmacharis are set to end their two-decade-long movement for a life of dignity on a victorious note.

ONE OF THE Balmiki women who undertook the bus yatra to Delhi, with a picture of B.R. Ambedkar.
DECEMBER 31, 2010. As revellers across the world prepare to celebrate the end of the first decade of the new millennium and the start of a new year, a million women across India will be celebrating not the end of a calendar year but the end of a centuries-old degrading and inhuman occupation – lifting of night soil, euphemistically referred to as manual scavenging.

This is the result of India's most moving campaign since Independence. The Safai Karmachari Andolan (SKA) is a movement for dignity and justice for India's safai karmacharis or Balmikis. It was Mahatma Gandhi who raised the question for the first time, over a century ago, in 1901, at a Kolkata meeting of the Indian National Congress. Several Prime Ministers declared they would eradicate manual scavenging. Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao, who was reportedly obsessed with ending the obnoxious practice, got the Eradication of Manual Scavenging and Dry Latrines Act passed in 1993. He also created a commission to deal with the problem and allocated crores for the rehabilitation of manual scavengers. Seventeen years after the Act, the demeaning work of removing human excreta with a broom, pieces of tin sheet and a bucket or basket is finally ending.

This has been achieved more because a band of determined people from the community launched the Safai Karmachari Andolan than because politicians or bureaucrats took the initiative. The team of mostly young people from the community, led by a frail, soft-spoken, but charismatic Balmiki leader, Bejawada Wilson, its convener, put in motion a strategic plan about 15 years ago.

First came an awareness-building exercise at the grass roots. A team of youngsters from the Balmiki community were mobilised and trained to spread the message throughout the country that manual scavenging and dry latrines had been made illegal since 1993. They went from house to house, slum to slum, district to district, convincing Balmiki women to throw down their brooms, to stop cleaning excreta. Wilson then appeared, exhorting them to give up their degrading occupation for the sake of dignity.

“The Collector can be jailed for allowing dry latrines in his/her district, no one can force you to clean them,” Wilson told them. The women were stunned when they first heard that it was punishable under law to make them clean excreta manually. When they were asked to share their experiences, it was like a dam burst. Years of pent-up anguish and emotion gushed out. “No one ever asked us how we felt, or how we suffered all these years,” they said. From Kashmir to Kanyakumari, the women repeated the same story, with slight variations.

Lakshmi from Tamil Nadu recalls: “I came from a village, so when I got married to a boy from the town, my friends were envious. ‘Now you'll become a city girl with TV and electricity,' they teased me. The wedding was fun. The music, food, new clothes, dressing up. When the festivities ended, my mother-in-law said, ‘The wedding is over, it's time to go to work.' In the village, everyone went to the fields in the morning to defecate. But not here in the town, I had never seen a huge latrine like this. I did not know our people cleaned excreta in this manner. I vomited for months. Could not eat my food. Gradually I got used to it. I hated it, but there was no choice. Even today, the sight of dal makes me throw up. It reminds me of what I cleaned for years.”

The SKA then launched a campaign to destroy illegal dry latrines. In 2003, the SKA with 18 other organisations, filed a public interest litigation (PIL) petition in the Supreme Court. They sought eradication of manual scavenging, liberation of all safai karmacharis from their degrading jobs and initiation of measures for their rehabilitation. A shameful and scandalous game ensued. After several delaying tactics, which prolonged the case over many years, the government finally took some action. But it was not to end manual scavenging but to subvert justice. In an attempt to cover up the States' failure to implement the 1993 Act, almost all of them submitted false affidavits stating that manual scavenging and dry latrines were non-existent in their territories. They implied the SKA was lying. The Supreme Court asked the SKA to furnish proof of the existence of dry latrines and manual scavenging.

The SKA embarked on a nationwide survey to gather proof. Wilson recalls: “This wasn't just a survey. It was a question of our life, of human dignity.” An army of 1,260 SKA activists panned out to 274 districts in 18 States. They went from house to house photographing and documenting evidence. They took pictures and video footage of individual house owners with their names and door numbers and the names and photographs of the women who cleaned their private latrines. They were aided by NDTV; the TV channel aired the footage, to the embarrassment of the house owners. The unintentional “name and shame” campaign made people, especially in Punjab and Haryana, quickly demolish the dry toilets.

S.R. Sankaran, the legendary Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer who was Wilson's guide and mentor and a co-founder of the SKA, personally wrote letters to every Collector under whose jurisdiction dry latrines still existed. Some took action. Many were indifferent, callous and brusque.

Intensification of campaign

In 2004, the SKA decided to intensify its campaign by destroying illegal dry latrines. In Andhra Pradesh, there was a dry latrine in the Nizamabad Yellareddy court, used by lawyers and judges. “You cannot demolish this,” the authorities told them. “You will be arrested.” “We can and we will,” SKA campaigners retorted. “It is illegal; it is not supposed to exist!”

Sankaran declared, “We should have a closing date. We cannot go on forever.” Wilson saw the ‘Countdown to the Commonwealth Games' signboards and decided Campaign 2010 had a nice ring to it. And December 31, 2010, sounded like a great deadline.

The 2010 Campaign began with plans for an all-India bus yatra in October 2010. Five buses drove triumphantly into Delhi on October 31. One had started from the northernmost part of India, Kashmir; another from the southern tip, Kanyakumari. The third meandered from Dibrugarh to Delhi, and the fourth from Orissa. The last bus was from Dehradun in Uttarakhand. There were 250 safai karmacharis from 20 States. They converged on the Vishwa Yuva Kendra, Chanakyapuri, exhausted but victorious and happy, after a marathon, month-long mission. They had undertaken the pilgrimage through 172 districts, exhorting every Indian Balmiki, from bastis throughout the country to throw down their brooms and vow that they would never clean human excreta again.

On October 7, 2010, the SKA received a huge blow. Their mentor, Sankarangaru, as he was fondly called, suffered a heart attack and died. The poor from every corner of Andhra Pradesh, whom he had served, turned up in their thousands to mourn the passing away of a man who had touched the lives of millions. But his dream lived on, soon to be realised.

Some 1,000 safai karmacharis from 20 States, who until recently had worked as manual scavengers, assembled in New Delhi on November 1 and resolved to return to the capital on January 1, 2011, if their demands were not met. At a meeting at Mavalankar Hall, they shared their experiences and put forth their demands.

As each bus appeared, at Chanakyapuri, yatris were greeted and garlanded by a cheering band of supporters and well-wishers. They clambered down travel-weary but triumphant, shouting the slogans they had learnt from different States. “ Rookhi sookhi khayenge, maila nahi uthayenge!” they yelled. (We'll eat half a dry roti but never carry filth again.)

The slogans were sometimes difficult to decipher, but once you sorted out the myriad languages, they were upbeat and infectious. The effect was cacophonic – Bengali and Marathi merging with Oraon and Ho from Jharkhand, Kashmiri mingling with dialects like Bhojpuri, Oriya and Punjabi. The southern presence was pronounced and loud – Telegu, Tamil, Malayalam and Kannada.

Bejawada Wilson, convener of the SKA. He carried to the logical end an action plan he helped put together 15 years ago to eradicate manual scavenging.
The yatris had been together for an entire month. Many had picked up a few phrases of each language. They learnt new customs, new food habits and new languages. Tamilians shouted Johar (from Jharkhand), but strangest of all was to hear Punjabis and Kashmiris shouting “Velaga Velaga Velaga vay”, a victory cry from the deep South. North Indians ate sambar and idlis, while southern Balmikis learnt to enjoy aloo paranthas for breakfast.

Few of these women had ever left the slums they were born in or travelled, except to a relative's house for a wedding or a funeral. Yet the fervour and emotion generated by this mission to end manual scavenging had given them the courage to embark on a totally unknown journey, hundreds, even thousands of kilometres away, to a distant dream – to Delhi. Several had taken babies and small children with them. Each person who disembarked from the buses looked exhausted but exhilarated. Each one had grown in confidence and self-esteem. The excitement and pride were palpable.

People poured out of the buses and into the hall. The women were invited to take the stage. The first was Narayanamma from Andhra Pradesh. In October 2000, The Hindu reported Narayanamma's plight as she cleaned a 400-seat dry latrine in Anantapur town. The toilet was immediately demolished, and Narayanamma became a crusader in the fight to end manual scavenging. Ten years later she glows with pride and joy as she speaks about her fight for justice for her people.

Umayal from Puddukottai district in Tamil Nadu is all of 20 years old. She spent a month on the bus with her two-year-old daughter Sandhya. Tiny, with delicate, perfect features, she rapidly became the darling of the media after her firebrand speech. “I started doing this work when I was around 10 years old,” she began. “Once, I was working for some people and they would not let me sit on the mat. I had to sit far away in a corner on the floor. I wept and thought, I am untouchable because of the filthy work I do. When the SKA people came here and asked us to stop this work, I was only too happy to do so. I received a bank loan and now buy and sell coir. Even if someone offers me one lakh rupees, I will never do this work again.”

When Wilson took the microphone to speak, his words, deriving from his years of experience as a member of the Balmiki community, came straight from the heart. He said: “How many of our women have wept tears of shame as they did this filthy, humiliating work to feed their children? Our grandmothers, mothers, aunts, wives, sisters and daughters. They crept out from back doors, believing their touch pollutes. Today, with no promise of livelihood, no guarantee of rice or roti, they have bravely thrown down their brooms, those symbols of shame and oppression. They have travelled through the length and breadth of this country begging our people to do likewise. To throw down their buckets, baskets and brooms to liberate their children and future generations from life-long shame and oppression.”

A list of demands were announced, aimed at helping safai karmacharis to rebuild their lives with dignity. “If the government does not accept our demands within 60 days, we will all come to Delhi and stay put here until our demands are met,” Wilson declared.

The main demands were that the government must apologise to all safai karmacharis for the violation of their dignity and the degradation of an entire community over centuries; all dry latrines must be demolished; those violating the 1993 Act and forcing safai karmacharis to do manual scavenging must be punished. They also demanded that the government must release Rs.5 lakh for the rehabilitation of every safai karmachari, a separate Rs.10,000 as immediate relief, five acres of land, and Antyodaya cards and houses. A special pension for women safai karmacharis who were single, widowed or aged was also demanded.

There were loud cheers when Wilson issued his ultimatum to the government. There was a feeling that it was possible for the safai karmacharis to realise their dream. The dream does seem less impossible now. Wilson has appeared in national dailies, on television, even in British newspapers; he has held meetings with Ministers, senior IAS officers, the National Advisory Council and the Planning Commission. On October 23, an NAC meeting chaired by Sonia Gandhi issued a note ordering a crackdown on manual scavenging, with specific directions for State governments to end the shameful practice. An outline for rehabilitation was also issued.

A padayatra, launched on December 1 and culminating in Delhi on December 31, will bring this historic campaign to an end. After December, the SKA will start a “name and shame” campaign, naming Collectors who are guilty of dereliction of duty.

Few people took Wilson seriously when he started his work in 1987 in Kolar in Karnataka. The SKA has since spread to Kanyakumari, to Kashmir, to Kumaon. Its campaigners have persuaded lakhs of women to throw down their brooms, bringing down the number of manual scavengers from 13 lakh to three lakh. It has taken more than two decades, but he has achieved what even Mahatma Gandhi failed to do.

To dream an impossible dream takes courage. Yet this simple, unknown man with a small team of people has managed within two decades to sweep away the degradation of centuries for one million women with little more than the power of persuasion. It places him in the company of giants like Gandhi, Mandela and Martin Luther King. A bit over the top? Some people would say so. But not those one million Balmiki women.

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Friday, December 24, 2010

Understanding the importance of Mahad movement

Relevance of Mahad’s historical struggle

Manusmriti need to be burnt not in its physicality alone but also from our hearts and minds

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

Two sisters from scavenging community were burnt to death by an upper caste mob in Moradabad district of Uttar-Pradesh for an alleged murder committed by their brother who is still at large. The family requested the police to protect them yet nothing happened. Contrary to what the girl’s distraught mother is saying, the Uttar-Pradesh police already suggested that the girls committed suicide because of the regular humiliation by their neighbors regarding their brothers.

Uttar-Pradesh, people say, is the laboratory of the Dalit-Bahujan politics. Unfortunately, Brahmanism still remains as powerful in the state as ever though its functionality and strategies have changed drastically. The Dalit- Bahujan concept has taken a beating here and to the best now the new agendas of different caste identities have emerged in the state. Tragically, this assertion movement has some where drifted from what Baba Saheb Ambedkar charted for all the oppressed of the country, a new vision under Buddha’s liberating path. Uttar-Pradesh has seen empowered Dalit Bahujan politics but unlike Maharastra the efforts for a counter culture here have not worked well. In the absence of a counter culture, the Dalit Bahujan leaderships of different communities are targeting each other and in the end reinforcing brahmanical beliefs of supremacy and purity. As long as caste remains, Brahmanism will work to the benefits of the powerful and maintain hegemonies of a few.

It is therefore necessary to revisit the historic path of Baba Saheb Ambedkar in Mahad where he fought the rights of the people denied human dignity and access the natural resources. Water is a natural resource and none has right to control it and Ambedkar’s fight for water right for the Dalits is an example of how people’s movement can bring social change as he was not just breaking the brahmanical hegemony over water but also pointing that without equality of women and their effective participation no movement would succeed. He, along with thousands of his followers, predominantly women, burnt Manusmriti, the law book of the Hindus. It was not just symbolic but a strong rejection of racist Hindu social order which denied human being equality, liberty and fraternity. It was just not a political issue as he made an important statement in burning Manusmriti, which means that the rejection of old order based on racial prejudices of cultural supremacy must essentially be part of any movement meant for social justice. Hence, December 25th must be celebrated as a human rights day of the oppressed all over the world. We can not leave this symbolic day to the pages of history only but take it further to demolish Machiavellian politics of highest kind where people are marginalized through divine sanctions and subjugated further in the name of Gods and the books supposedly written by them. No book was bigger than human liberty and freedom and therefore they need to be questioned and formulated according to modern concept of rights for all.

For every student of social sciences and human rights in India must read and understand this historical event of December 25th, 1927, as this will give them ideas to learn and understand what Ambedkar stood for and what he revolted. That was the time, when Baba Saheb challenged the religious superiority of Manu Smriti and termed it a law book of injustice and burnt it with his supporters, it was a big event for millions of people were fooled to believe in a book which can not be changed yet which was responsible for their miseries and sorrows. A person like Ambedkar would not believe in tokenism as he countered each of these laws with his thought provoking critical analysis, yet it was important for him to do something symbolic which sends a positive message among the community.

This is Ambedkar’s century and his forthright views are now a challenge for all hegemonies. Today, the movement for social justice can not imagine anything leaving Ambedkar from the centrality of it. Yet, very unfortunately, many new things are coming up projecting Ambedkar as a person from a particular community, who married to a non Dalit woman and most shockingly, they alleged, he embrace Buddhism under pressure of Hindus. This is the outcome of the growing caste identities being used for individual leaders and their fancies to achieve ‘political power’. There is nothing wrong in attaining political power but how will it sustain without a common cause and common rejection of the Varnashram dharma. How can we challenge Brahmanism without a counter-culture, which is more humane, progressive and ideologically stronger and better than an order based on prejudices and stereotypes? As Dalit Bahujan movement further split into the caste and sub-castes identities hitting at each other, the power of Ambedkar’s cultural vision become more than relevant for all of us. Ambedkar as a challenger of hegemony, a free thinker and an iconoclast would answer to all the irrelevant manipulations of his formulations and ideological constructs being constructed by these prophets of religions who find it unacceptable as why he embraced Buddhism. Problem with these thinking is that all of them denigrate Ambedkar’s great moral courage and hence it is essential to understand Ambedkar in true spirit of his philosophy of life and mission.

Yes, those who feel Ambedkar embraced Buddhism out of fear and pressure from Sangh Parivar do not really appreciate his commitment and strength. A man who could walk out of an audience with Pope John Paul just because the latter could not respond to his questions properly must have been having the courage of conviction. One must understand that Baba Saheb Ambedkar clearly mentioned that Hindu Fundamentalists are the biggest threat and Hindu Rashtra would be a colossal tragedy for India. He talked against political Islam and its threat. It would be very difficult to find a man of Ambedkar’s vision and courage who single handedly brought change in the lives of millions of people in India.

Ambedkar is the name of Freedom, liberty and enlightened individual. And he is aspiration and hope of millions of people denied rights and yet by dint of their hard work, they have challenge the brahmanical superstructure. He was a man of great pragmatism yet never ever compromised on his principles. His pragmatism never ever reflected in politics of opportunism which is very much part of today’s politics and politicians. His thrust on individual is a landmark from any standard as even European society and Americans had not discovered that individualism that Ambedkar aspired for. For him individual was supreme and those who denigrate individual can not really build a healthy society? Our societies deny individual the basic liberty and that is why it can not be called a society.

Today, on December 25th, we must have the courage to be as courageous as Baba Saheb Ambedkar was to his thoughts and action, his creations, his thoughts, of his convictions and commitments. His fight for the fundamental right of access to natural resources, added by rejection of the racist brahmanical order should be part of our college curriculum. Those who believe in egalitarian society must understand the meaning of Ambedkar and his fight for social justice. Today, in the world where our governments and societies are hurting the individual liberty the most, when our political parties are compromising with religious fundamentalists, when our Khap panchayats are deciding what we should do and what should we think, Ambedkar’s ideas remains a beacon of hope. Ambedkar is the hope for all the oppressed. The women in India need to understand that Dr Ambedkar’s struggle for them was supreme. This day when we celebrate the Christmas as big day, it is a big day for millions of people all over the world for their dignity and human right. His ideas need to globalised and propagated internationally so that more and more people understand the enormity of his struggle and modernity of his ideas which changed our world. Let president Obama read Dr Ambedkar and his writings and he will understand the cruelty of Indian village system as well as how a giant like Ambedkar could bring hopes in the lives of million without using any violent methods but simply advocating through a counter culture to oppression and subjugation. The politics of identity is great but as Ambedkar himself said about his own ‘ I was born as Hindu which was not in my hand but I will not die as a Hindu’. It clearly indicates that he was out to create new identity and harp on it. The sacrifice of Baba Saheb Ambedkar was for all of us to live in an enlightened society. We can not have our vision by reasserting our identities created under the brahmanical construct. A new dawn need to be created which means a cultural change is prerequisite for making final assault on Brahmanism and Ambedkar has shown us the path. It is time we chose that identity charted by him and get out of this big brahmanical game of hurting each other. We all may have minor contradiction but we need to understand the bigger contradiction of our life is with the order created by Manu. Baba Saheb chose to hit at that bigger contradiction in Mahad and it is time we need to follow that again and again. We may burn Manu Smriti in public but let us throw it away in the rubbish bin of history and pledge to work for a humanist society as envisaged by Baba Saheb Ambedkar. When we shed our internal prejudices then the mother of the scavenging community girls who were brutally burnt Moradabad would not feel isolated with in the Dalit Bahujan politics and we will not raise an issue when there is a good political crop to harvest. That time every individual is important for us as Baba Saheb time and again maintained. It is tragic that like the Hindus we also prejudge things and confine ourselves in the realm of identity politics. Baba Saheb’s message was meant for all of us and we must come in solidarity of all who need us. It is here that Balmikis of Moradabad need our support. Even if, as some people assume that the brothers of these girls who were burnt, were criminals, that does not mean that the girls and their family should have paid the price for the crime they never committed. Blaming people on their birth identity and on the crime of some one else is brahanical and need to be challenged at all level including our personal and ideological discourse. The biggest defeat of Manu Smriti would be the social-cultural unity of victims of that order created by it, but in the absence of a concrete programme of action and because of conspicuous silence on matter such as these killings create further rifts in the people and make them fall in the hands of those who are actually the biggest offenders of our dignity and human rights. Unity will never happen with big jargons and rhetoric but is only possible with expression of solidarity and participating and being part of every struggle for human dignity and human rights. And message from Mahad is that intellectuals who write must ensure at least some time of their life to be participants of a social movement and struggle for change. How did Baba Saheb Ambedkar found time to write so many things and yet be part of all the major struggles. His writings and work had the conviction strongly inbuilt that unless we become part of social movements for change and unless we shed these brahmanical prejudices and values in our personality, we will always be carrying Manu in our heart and mind. Ambedkar did not have the patience to hear Pope that it will take so many centuries for elimination of caste system and walked out of him. Ambedkar has done his work, it is time for us to pledge that we will not sit ideally unless this notorious system is demolished and the best way to do so would be by taking further his path and creating an enlightened and equitable society, if not among all, at least among our own selves.

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

We must follow up regularly the case of Valmiki girls murder in Moradabad


It is an important case how the Valmikis are treated. They face the biggest untouchability and are stigmatized even today. It is worst when the police says that the girls committed suicide.We need fair and impartial investigation. This case must be handed over to CBI and tried in a fast track court. The victims mother need support, both mental, social and financial. State government must act and take action against the guilty.

Vidya Bhushan Rawat

Dalit girls’ death: It was murder, not suicide, say panels in chorus

Express News Service

Tags : Dalit girls’ death, National Commission for Scheduled Castes, National Commission for Safai Karamcharis
Posted: Wed Dec 22 2010, 01:57 hrs

Dalit girls death
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The teams of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis, which visited Moradabad on Tuesday to inquire into the deaths of two Dalit sisters on Saturday, said the girls were killed, and blamed the local officials for the tragedy.
Both the teams rejected the district administration’s claim that the girls had committed suicide, unable to bear the taunts of neighbours after their brothers were booked in a case of double murder.

The NCSC team was led by member Raju Parmar while Swaraj Jeevan headed the NCSK team.

NCSC chairman PL Punia told The Indian Express, “The officials of the district administration and the police are responsible for the death of the Dalit sisters. Our team has conducted an inquiry and the commission would get a case under the SC/ST Atrocity Act registered against erring officials according to the findings. The girls were killed and it was not a case of suicide.”

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Jeevan said, “We conducted an inquiry and found that the mother of the victims had been requesting senior officials of the police and the administration for security since December 9. She feared attack on her and her daughters, but the officials hurled abuses at her and shooed her away from their offices.”

He further said, “It is a case of murder and I am recommending action against the District Magistrate and the DIG of Moradabad, holding them responsible for the killing of two Dalit girls and getting a false case of robbery and murder fabricated against the Dalit girls’ brothers Rakesh and Rajesh.”

Both the teams visited the house in Kothiwal Nagar where the charred bodies of Geeta and Neetu alias Monu were found and recorded the statement of their mother who was present in the house at the time of the incident. The teams also spoke to their neighbours.

Later, the teams met the doctors who conducted the postmortem examination of the two girls, and the forensic experts who had examined the room. They also recorded the statements of the local SHO, the Circle Officer, the SP (City), and the City Magistrate who had visited the spot on December 18.

Parmar and Jeevan met the DIG and the DM and inquired about the steps they had taken in the matter.

Moradabad DIG Ashok Kumar said he gave all details to the members of both the commissions and replied to their queries. “The investigation would find out if the mother’s allegation that Geeta and Neetu were set ablaze by a mob is true,” the DIG said. He said the police had already registered a case under various sections of IPC and the SC/ST Act and an Assistant SP was conducting the investigation.

Rajjo Devi had alleged in her complaint that a mob entered her house and set her daughters ablaze after outraging their modesty.

Her sons, Rajesh and Rakesh, were arrested after Pankaj Gagneja, who lives in the same locality, had lodged a complaint, naming them for the murder of his wife Pooja and daughter Sania, and robbery at his house on December 9.

While Rajesh was arrested the next day, Rakesh is on the run.

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Dalit girls burnt in Morabadabad

The Dalit dignity is challenged in Uttar-Pradesh. The government of Uttar-Pradesh must take this issue seriously and punish the culprit. This can not be suicide case as the police is pretending . A free and fair inquiry is needed.


Two Dalit sisters burnt alive by mob
PTI, Dec 19, 2010, 04.02pm IST

Comments (65)

Tags:Kothiwal Nagar|Dalit Community

MORADABAD: Two sisters belonging to the Dalit community were allegedly burnt alive in Kothiwal Nagar here by a mob protesting a double murder for which their brother was accused, police said on Sunday.

"An FIR has been registered in which the victim girls' mother has identified 12 people who were part of the mob," SP (City) Rahul Yadavendra told PTI.

According to the victims' mother Rajo, a mob gathered outside their house yesterday and set it ablaze. While she escaped unhurt, her daughters Gita (22) and Monu (20) were burnt alive in the ensuing fire.

The victims' brother Rakesh, who worked as a sweeper here, has been accused in the case of the murder of a woman and her 10-year-old daughter for robbery on December 9.

While Rakesh is absconding, his brother Rajesh was arrested by police.

Rajo has alleged that a mob had also gathered outside her house and threatened to set it ablaze about two days after the double murder.

She claimed she had requested police to provide security at her house or to place her and her two daughters at a secure location as there was a threat to their life, but the police did not help.

DIG Ashok Kumar had earlier denied the involvement of a mob in the incident and had said that prima facie, it was a case of accident or suicide.

Rajo also alleged that the police had initially refused to register her complaint in this connection, while the DIG had said that police was not approached.

Dalit activists today staged protest demonstrations and took out a march from Ambedkar Park here to the place where the bodies have been kept for post mortem.

They are demanding that the accused be arrested immediately.

Read more: Two Dalit sisters burnt alive by mob - The Times of India http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/Two-Dalit-sisters-burnt-alive-by-mob/articleshow/7127843.cms#ixzz18ZXVYj00

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Manual scavengers in Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh

Enslaved by tradition: the manual scavengers of Vidisha


THE HINDU FAILED BY MODERNITY: Basanti Bai, a manual scavenger, with her "tools" - a metal scraper and wicker basket. Photo: Mahim Pratap Singh
Over 200 families in this district of Madhya Pradesh continue to bear the brunt of caste discrimination.

Vidisha, a thriving trade centre of ancient India, finds glorious mention variously for Emperor Ashoka's governorship, for featuring in Pali scriptures and Kalidasa's romantic epic Meghdoot, as a premier tourist destination in glossy brochures of Madhya Pradesh Tourism and as the parliamentary constituency of Sushma Swaraj, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha.

That the banned practice of manual scavenging is still a forced occupation for several Dalit families here is seldom written about.

According to unofficial estimates, over 200 families in the district continue to bear the brunt of caste discrimination primarily through the practice of manual scavenging.

“Every morning, I go to eight to ten households, collect the garbage in a straw basket and dump it a mile away from the village. When it rains, the waste oozes through the basket over to my hair,” says Guddi Bai (38) of Nateran tehsil.

The waste she is talking about is human excreta, euphemistically called “night soil”. Guddi belongs to the Valmiki community, relegated by the caste system to practise manual scavenging as their traditional occupation.

Ironically, Guddi, who goes from house to house collecting human faeces every morning, has a water-seal latrine at her house.

Nateran, the tehsil visited by this correspondent, has eight families that practise manual scavenging in its headquarters alone, and in all cases it is the women who do the job while the men work as agricultural or construction labour.

While the practice was banned by law in 1993 with the passage of The Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, it still continues in several parts of India. The deadline for the eradication of manual scavenging from the country, after having been revised thrice (December 2007, March 2009 and March 2010), was recently set for 2012-end by the National Advisory Council, headed by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi. Following its last meeting on the issue in October, the NAC noted that it was, “deeply distressed to observe that the shameful practice of manual scavenging persists in India, despite being outlawed”.


An important reason for the failure of the Centre and the State government in eradicating this dehumanising practice seems to be consistent official denial.

In 2006, the Madhya Pradesh government, along with some other State governments, filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court claiming the practice had ceased to exist in the State. However, a counter-affidavit was filed by 17 organisations from all over India along with photographs and video clippings of manual scavenging, proving the official affidavits wrong.

While Vidisha District Collector Yogendra Sharma accepts that the practice still continues, he does not find economic deprivation to be a reason.

“All these families have alternative livelihood options; most of them have BPL and Antyodaya ration cards, cattle etc. The only reason, I understand, they are still doing it is because they have been doing it for generations and because it is easy money for them compared to jobs that require hard work like agriculture,” says Mr. Sharma.

“We are now making efforts to motivate them to abandon this practice willingly,” he adds.


During the five-year period of the 10th Plan, Madhya Pradesh received Rs.2.9 crore under the Centrally-sponsored Pre-Matric Scholarship scheme for the children of those engaged in “unclean occupations”.

However, people in the occupation note the scholarship requires getting a 100-day “unclean work certificate” from the authorities, which is almost impossible since issuing the certificate would mean the legally abolished practice is still going on — a fact the authorities do not want to admit.

According to the Ministry of Social Justice figures, out of a total scavenger population of 81,307 in the State, 77,512 have been rehabilitated under the Centrally-funded Self-Employment Scheme for the Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers (SRMS) and only 3,795 remain.

Unofficial sources put this figure at around 8,000 to 10,000.

The SRMS, formulated in 2007, envisaged the rehabilitation of manual scavengers — in a phased manner, by the end of 2009 — by assisting them in finding alternative employment through term loans (up to Rs.5 lakh) and micro financing (up to Rs.25,000).

However, the rehabilitation schemes concentrated only on the financial aspect and ignored the social aspect, causing several “rehabilitated” people to eventually fall back to the practice. The financial rehabilitation programmes were male-centric, while it is the women who make up the largest chunk of those engaged in this occupation.

“Firstly, the programme does not have any specific provisions targeting women and secondly, most of the projects for which loans are provided are not women-friendly,” says Asif Sheikh of Garima Abiyaan, a Dewas-based NGO.


Another important reason for the practice continuing even after 63 years of independence and 17 years after a law was passed by Parliament banning it, is that it derives a “traditional legitimacy” from the patron-client system, which is firmly entrenched in the psyche of those who perform this degrading job.

The families in Nateran note that scavenging is not a means of sustenance and they make ends meet by doing other jobs like agricultural labour.

“All I get for working everyday is around 20 to 50 kilos of grain annually and a few old clothes on occasion,” says Basanti Bai (40) who has been scavenging ever since she was handed the job by her sister-in-law after her marriage.

Why doesn't she quit then?

“If we quit, the upper caste women ridicule us. ‘Tum to panditaain ho gayi ho' [You seem to act like a Brahmin woman], they say. Moreover, that is the way it has always been going on,” she says.

“The patron-client system, in a strange way, provides security of employment and, given the nature of this job, it basically is secure as there is no one to compete with and hence it will require determined social, political and economic rehabilitation measures on the part of the government if this dehumanising practice is to end,” says Professor Nandu Ram, director of the Ambedkar Chair at the Centre for the Study of Social Systems, Jawaharlal Nehru University.

The Valmikis, and other scavenging communities, also face discrimination from other Dalit communities such as the Jatavs and the Ahirwars and are relegated to the lowest levels of the caste hierarchy among Dalits.

Keywords: caste discrimination, manual scavenging

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Wednesday, December 01, 2010

India's unabated Shame


In Chennai, a school teacher force a girl who happened to hail from a family of manual scavengers, to eat trash. Can it happen any where in the world. India and particularly Tamilnadu, the land of Periyar has such barbaric crime against the Dalits, need to ponder over where it failed. Despite loud claims of social justice, Tamilnadu, still has to go a long way. Ofcourse, Tamilnadu is not alone in crime against humanity. There is a common thread in crime in India. That common thread is upper caste hatred and contempt for Dalits particularly the manual scavengers. We have failed to abolish this practice and the blame game continues. Radicalisation of the community is a must. A voice from the community must now reject this slavery. Come out of it. All those who believe in dignity of individual and human rights of all, should join hand in the Self Respect Movement of the Manual Scavengers. It is time to do it and reject this criminal practice duly sanctioned by the Vaidiks. Karunanidhi and his government must take stringent action and warn the school teachers for violating the human dignity. Action must be immediate and strict.

Vidya Bhushan Rawat

Teacher forces scavenger’s daughter to eat trash

Nalini Ravichandran Express News ServiceFirst Published : 30 Nov 2010 03:36:08 AM ISTLast Updated : 30 Nov 2010 08:55:03 AM IST

CHENNAI: In a shocking incident smacking of caste discrimination, a Class VII student and daughter of a manual scavenger was forced to eat trash by a school teacher last year and no action has been taken against anyone yet, despite the parents going to the police the next day.
The incident was narrated on Monday in Chennai at the public hearing by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights by the girl’s father, Dhanapal, for whom it was not just “corporal punishment” but something that shattered his hope. The manual scavenger from Madurai had hoped that his daughter would be safe in school.
Dhanapal, who broke down while speaking of his daught er’s ordeal, said: “I do manual scavenging, a degrading work. I sent my daughter to school with the hope that she will never do anything close to what I am doing. Now I am devastated. I clean rubbish and my daught er was made to eat it,” he said.

Along with the girl, Priyanka (12), belonging to the Hindu Kuravar community, two other girls also faced the same humiliation at the Government Girls Higher Secondary School, Mahaboobpalayam off Madurai on March 19 last year.

The students were called by Latha, a teacher of another class, and asked to clean the classroom. Since Latha was not their class teacher the students initially refused. They were then forced to clean the room and also eat the garbage in the presence of other students. Priyanka said, “We knelt before her and asked for forgiveness. We cleaned the classroom, and pleaded with her to spare us. She did not relent and demanded that she won’t let them free till they eat it up. We had exams coming up and were really scared. In fear and disgust, we ate up the trash, a handful, which was given to each of us. It contained mud, dirty paper, food particles like rice and stones.... We felt sick.”

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