MADURAI: The district revenue officer (DRO) of Madurai has ordered a magisterial probe by the revenue divisional officer into the police firing at Villur village near Tirumangalam on May 1.
"Public who have personal knowledge of the circumstances that led to the firing to disperse the unlawful assembly shall provide details before May 25," said M U Pugazhenthi, Usilampatti RDO. DRO B Murugesh ordered Pugazhenthi to probe the facts behind the incident and submit a report.
Madurai superintendent of police Asra Garg opened fire in the air from his service pistol at Villur village on May 1 after a mob of around 500 persons belonging to caste Hindu Thevar families allegedly attempted to assault police personnel with deadly weapons. The angry mob had demanded the release of five caste Hindus who were arrested by police for assaulting a Dalit youth for riding a motorcycle along the main street of the village against a discriminatory diktat. The caste Hindus, for years, allegedly oppressed Dalits by preventing them from riding motorcycles on Kaliamman Koil street in Villur. Caste Hindus had also issued a diktat that Dalits should not walk with footwear. Besides, two tumbler system was also practiced in the village, alleged Dalits.
Garg and other police officials had gone to the village along with revenue officials to hold peace talks. After initially agreeing to maintain calm, the Thevars attacked Dalit houses when officials left the village. On hearing about the attacks, Garg returned to the village. By then, Thevars had gathered in large numbers near the police station. When they attempted to attack the station, tahsildar ordered for opening fire.
More than 50 Thevars were arrested in this connection.
Subsequently, Villur panchayat president S Subbulakshmi filed a writ petition in the Madras high court bench here seeking an inquiry by a retired high court judge into the police firing. Subbulakshmi also wanted withdrawal of all police personnel from the village. She alleged that the presence of police personnel in the village had even curbed the movement of essential commodities like milk and newspapers.
In her petition, Subbulakshmi claimed that male members of caste Hindu families were forced to go into hiding due to the threat of arrests.
Dalit's killing: Protesters ransack shops during Sirsa bandh
More than a dozen shops were ransacked by protesters as most markets remained closed today in response to a call given by Dalit organisations against the killing of a Dalit youth at Bani village on April 30.
Demanding the arrest of the main accused in the killing of Mukh Ram, agitating youths of the Dalit community, led by Shanti Swaroop, Vijay Kandara, Suresh Goga, Shiv Kumar, Rajesh Balmiki and Raja Ram, went from shop to shop asking traders to close their establishments.
Earlier, the Dalit organisations had given a call for "Sirsa bandh" for today against alleged police inaction. The agitators ransacked the shop of a wholesale "beedi" dealer, when they found it open.
The protesters then marched through Suratgarhia Bazar, Subhash Chowk and Hisaria Bazar and smashed the windowpanes of a jeweller shop in Noharia Bazar.
The jeweller alleged that some miscreants among the protesters looted silver ornaments from his shop.
The protesters later ransacked a medical store in Sadar Bazar.
The protestors damaged windowpanes and furniture in several other shops in the market. While all this was happening, the police remained a mute spectator.
Irked by the action of the protesters and inaction of the police, a large number of traders assembled at Laal Batti Chowk on the Sirsa-Dabwali road and blocked vehicular traffic in protest.
The traffic on the road remained paralysed for over two hours leading to long queues of vehicles on both sides.
Some other traders blocked traffic at Ghantaghar Chowk and later went to the police station and held a demonstration against the police.
Later, DC Yudhbir Singh Khyalia had a meeting with representatives of the traders, who demanded shifting of the City Police SHO, arrest of those responsible for looting of shops and security for shopkeepers in the future.
Though the traders lifted the road blockade after their negotiations with the authorities, Hira Lal Sharma, president of the District Beopar Mandal, threatened that the traders would organise a Sirsa bandh tomorrow, if their demands were not met by the evening.
Dalit leader Shanti Swaroop, on the other hand, denied the hand of any Dalit activist in the incidents of looting and maintained that it was the handiwork of some anti-social elements.
DSP (Headquarters) Puran Chand Panwar later said the police had apprehended three persons for ransacking of shops during the Sirsa bandh and their motorcycle had been impounded.
Mukh Ram, a dalit youth was murdered and his body chopped off by members of the dominant community of the village at Bani on April 30 over a panchayat election-related rivalry.
While the police has arrested five persons in connection with the murder, the main accused are still at large.
LUCKNOW: Social activist Anna Hazare has laid bare his anti-Dalit mindset by not including even one member from the community on the anti-graft Lokpal Bill drafting committee , Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati said Friday.
Addressing a special function to mark the completion of four years of her government here, she said: "Just as the Congress-led central government displayed its anti-Dalit approach by not caring to include a Dalit in the Lokpal Bill draft committee, so did Anna Hazare, by not bothering to have a Dalit on his civil society panel, which reflects his anti-Dalit mindset."
According to her, "the exclusion of Dalits from the draft committee as a whole is a betrayal of the entire Dalit population of this country".
"While I welcome the various anti-corruption movements across the country, I am intrigued about the intent behind Anna Hazare's move to use Uttar Pradesh as a launch pad for his movement.
"Even though Anna Hazare belongs to Maharastra, where there is no dearth of scams, and likewise, there are scams in several other states too, yet he launched his anti-corruption campaign in UP, where not a single scam has taken place," the chief minister said.
"It appears that some people in Anna Hazare's civil society were politically motivated and they had chosen UP as a battleground for their campaign only under the influence of certain political groups.
"No wonder, the much hyped anti-corruption campaign is fast getting reduced to an anti-Dalit exercise," she said.
Why are Dalit students in India's best educational institutions committing suicide? Yamini Deenadayalan tells their side of the story
IN THE impossibly snobbish 20th century French fashion world, Coco Chanel denied having grown up in an orphanage. To remain the icon she had become, she needed the world to believe she came from better circumstances.
Twenty-year-old Gopal would understand Chanel's impulse. He is from a village in Tikamgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and studies horticulture at a local college. No one knows he is a Dalit. Gopal has learnt to hide his identity the hard way. His elder brother Bal Mukund Bharti was exceptionally bright. He had cleared the IIT entrance and was ranked eighth in the country, but he was determined to become a doctor. His father and older sister (a gram sevak and primary school teacher respectively) had taken loans to put him through five years at AIIMS in Delhi. Professors repeatedly mocked Bharti for being a 'category student'. While studying at AIIMS, Bharti said often that he wished he could change his name to an anodyne 'Srijan Kumar'. In his final year, the pressure became unbearable and Bharti committed suicide in 2010.
Last month, Linesh Mohan Gawle, a PhD student at the National Institute of Immunology, Delhi, committed suicide in his hostel room. Like Bharti, he came from a poor Dalit family who lived in Dindori tehsil near Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh.
In the past four years, 18 Dalit students have committed suicide in 16 institutes of higher education, including the IITs, Indian Institute of Science and AIIMS. The numbers that go unreported are probably higher. Living inside a cauldron of resentment, contempt, forced political correctness, self-doubt and thwarted ambition can't be conducive to well-being.
Things have not changed much since Anoop Kumar's first day at a Kanpur engineering college in 1995 when his professor said, "I'll be marking your papers, not Mayawati." Now a Delhibased Dalit activist and PhD student, Kumar's organisation, Insight Foundation, has been running a helpline for Dalit and Adivasi students for the past nine months. Most of the 40 calls Insight receives daily are from poor 'category students' who face administrative hassles and discrimination. Kumar says the suicide rates for Dalit students in institutes of higher education have been disproportionately high.
THE FIRST battle a 'category student' faces is one of low expectations. The well-documented Pygmalion Effect suggests that expectation is directly proportional to achievement. In experiment after experiment at the beginning of a term at US schools, elementary schoolteachers were falsely told that certain students had higher IQs than the rest. The performance of these students mysteriously improved. The researchers concluded that teachers unconsciously behave in ways that encourage success for 'smart' students. In the never-ending conversations about 'merit', there is little reflection that aptitude is not innate — that it might have a great deal to do with families and schools creating an environment conducive to learning and achievement for children.
Rahul Bhargava (name changed), a psychiatrist at an IIT, firmly believes that the IIT JEE tests "raw talent" and only those who clear it with the requisite cut-off mark can survive in IIT. "Logically speaking," he says, "students who enter through reservation are not cut out for such a course and will fare better in government colleges." Bhargava's attitude is not uncommon. It is also dangerous, considering his key position in ensuring the well-being of students.
In 1992, Chuni Kotal, the first female graduate from the Lodha tribe in West Bengal, committed suicide. She was 27 and had faced years of harassment, including professors who called Lodhas thieves and accused them of promiscuity. Three days before she hung herself, she told a classmate, "I am a Lodha. So I shouldn't have dreamt of higher studies."
A second challenge for Dalit students is to be able to imagine themselves as achievers, which is an important element for success. A recent US study showed that the gap between white and black students' test scores narrowed after Barack Obama's presidency. Getting a 'seat' in college is not enough. You need an environment in which you can be inspired by mentor figures.
Raju, an MSc student at Pondicherry University, agrees. It made a huge difference that one of his main professors, Anthony Lingam (name changed), is a Dalit. "My parents and relatives never went to school. My father is a compounder. Anthony sir is an example for Dalit students coming up in life." When asked about facing discrimination himself, Anthony proudly and rather problematically says they have been limited — because of his fair skin. "No one realises I am a Dalit," he says. Anthony has also picked invisibility as his survival strategy.
The third pressure on Dalit students is to forgo their local cultural symbols so that they cannot be identified. Until Anoop Kumar rebelled and dropped out of his engineering college in Kanpur, he had been a 'good' student. To stay invisible, he had not just faked caste, but also fakedgotra and manufactured a whole new identity. Arun Kumar (name changed), a masters student in social work in Chennai, has hidden his Dalit origins. He shares a rented room with a friend, a world different from his native village near Tirupattur, Tamil Nadu, where his mother is a cook at a government school and father, a farm labourer. Like them, most Dalit students have 'covers' of varying elaborateness to get through college, knowing they can never drop their guard.
Arun played the parai drums one year at the college festival. In Tamil Nadu, the drums are played at funerals. His classmates — hypersensitive to caste markers — began to whisper that he is a paraian (the caste that plays these drums). Arun felt some students began to distance themselves from him. A few months later, his professor suggested in front of the whole class that a Dalit rights researcher would be interested in interviewing him. Arun felt humiliated that all the hard work to hide his identity had proved futile, and feared the incident would affect his job prospects.
IF CULTURE capital is the cultural information that can be traded by someone as social currency, one big problem is that in India, the only culture capital is of being English-educated and urban. There is no cache in being rural or Oriya-speaking. And there is certainly no Dalit cool.
Presently, there are a few significant political or social movements to help young Dalits like Arun reclaim their culture with pride. The same parai drums that marked Arun for ostracisation have been adapted by the Tamil diaspora into the 'cool quotient' of rap and hip hop. Arun plays and replays English movies on his laptop, frustrated that he can't understand them. He keeps quiet when the conversation turns to movies or books and remembers sitting through the filmKites laughing at all the right times but not understanding a thing. "When it comes to Tamil movies, I always play a major role in the conversation," he says.
Kamal is a 22-year old student from a village near Salem, Tamil Nadu. His father works in a local shop and his mother is a housewife. Students in Kamal's elite college in Chennai giggled politelywhen he pronounced parents as pay-rents. "Sometimes, I think so many times before saying something in English or don't answer a question in class because I am scared to speak," says Kamal. Over the semester, his self-confidence plunged and so did his academic performance. "In Salem, I had many friends. Here I can't recognise myself and don't know about English music and films, so there is not much I can talk about," says Kamal. He now spends his evenings alone in his hostel room.
Reservation may never achieve its goals if there is no genuine attempt by institutions to be inclusive. Dalit rights activist V Geetha says all campuses should have an independent civil accountability body to which students can make themselves heard. "However horrid Women's Day turns out, it still works by keeping certain issues alive. Similarly, there should be a Dalit Rights Week involving students and teachers. In the humanities courses, there is, at some level, awareness of these issues. But those in science and engineering courses think they are above these social realities," says Geetha.
It is understandable that Dalit students might be suspicious of burnt offerings from their 'liberal' peers. Godavari (name changed) is a 25-yearold Dalit teaching associate in the English department at Pune University. She recalls her MA days when her largely Brahmin classmates initially isolated her not because of caste, but class. Her semi-literate parents own a grocery shop in Nashik. However, when the same classmates decided to make a film on Dalit literature, they asked her to quote Ambedkar on camera. "I was offended they approached me out of the blue. They either say caste is invisible or are filled with guilt and insist their generation is different," she says.
But can such overt discrimination be fought with covert politwasical correctness? The signs are not encouraging. Akanksha Mehta (name changed) is a 23-year-old masters student in social work at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. She is not a Dalit but is interested in minority issues. While taking a walk on campus she only said, "I cannot talk about 'X' community in public," fearing that it will be politically incorrect. This is a college with an inclusive policy and a dedicated SC/ST student cell. In a quieter place far from other students, she offers, "Dalit and Tribal Social Work is offered as an elective subject. The Dalit and tribal students feel that we can never understand their issues and the animosity is palpable, so I won't take it up," she says.
SOMETIMES, THE cauldron boils over in unexpected circumstances. Former Bangalore University professor Ramdas Rao is among a group of professors who believed that along with studying Chaucer and Shakespeare, students should be able to engage with texts from their own cultures. They initiated a course on Dalit Literature as part of the MA English programme in 2005. The course politwas popular and much admired for its inspiring faculty. In 2006, a professor discussed the use of the word 'holaya' (a term for Dalit that was once, centuries ago, merely descriptive and now derogatory) in a contemporary Dalit text they were studying. Rumour ran riot on the campus that she had insulted Dalits and it became a pretext to air past grievances about poor results. A group of Dalit students attacked their classmates and were taken to court in 2006. In retaliation, the Dalit students slapped a caste atrocity case on the university. The course was eventually discontinued. Today, Rao describes the series of events as "a churning of things, distortions that are inevitable". Did engaging with issues of oppression make caste identity more pronounced in the classroom and hence more sensitive? Rao disagrees but states that it is important to address both "oppression and assertion" in equal measure.
One solution might be to extend affirmative action beyond just entrance to educational institutes. In addition to equal employment and admissions policies, American affirmative action programmes also encourage minority students in universities to organise into groups and seek mentors.
It's often harder for Dalit students to stay on than to get into the Indian education system. It's all attributed to politics and economics, but it is more often psychology that influences Dalit students and their lives. The silent games that force them to feel they are flying dangerously close to the sun.
The Supreme Court today directed the Haryana Government to provide security to the victims of the April 21, 2010, anti-Dalit violence at Mirchpur in Hisar district in view of the threat allegedly being faced by them from the accused in the case.
A Bench comprising Justices GS Singhvi and AK Ganguly also directed the Haryana Government to provide two quintals of wheat a month each to about 100 families of the victims who had taken shelter at a farmhouse near Hisar.
The wheat should be supplied for May and June while the case would be taken up for hearing again in the first week of July, the Bench said.
In the order, the Bench also made the Delhi Government a party to the case and issued notice seeking its response to the pleadings of the victims who were still staying in the national capital.
The court passed the order after senior counsel Colin Gonsalves, assisted by Anubha Rastogi, said about 20 families of the victims had taken shelter in Delhi and about 100 families were staying at the Tamvar farmhouse. Most of the victims had to leave Delhi as they were not allowed to stay at the Valmiki temple after certain period, Colin said.
The victims were not in a position to return to Mirchpur, fearing threat to their lives. Also, they were not being given work under the rural employment guarantee scheme (NREGA) at Mirchpur nor were their children allowed to go to school. Even those who had preferred to stay put at their native village after the April, 2010, violence were forced to flee by people belonging to the higher caste.
The victims were being threatened especially after some of them identified the accused in the trial court at Delhi, Colin said, justifying the plea for security and food for their survival.
The trial of the nearly 100 accused had progressed well and was at the concluding stage, he said. At this, the SC Bench said it would hear the matter in July by which time perhaps the trial would be over. The SC had shifted the trial from Hisar to Delhi as supporters of the accused had created unruly scenes outside the trial court there. Even lawyers of the victims had complained that they were not being allowed to argue the case.
-- .Arun Khote 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.