Dalits Media Watch
News Updates 29.07.15
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· RAPE VICTIMS SET ABLAZE - The Pioneer
· Puttur: Youth held for attempting rape of Dalit girl - Dajii Warld
· Cops rape and kill her, later label her a Naxal - Deccan Chronicle
· Be Proactive, DGP Directs Senior Cops - The New Indian Express
· New child labour law will hit girls, dalits and OBCs most - The Hindustan Times
· Professor: Social Injustice Triggers Migration - The New Indian Express
· 49% of Haryana's dalit kids are malnourished: Report - The Times Of India
· Rs. 500 Allowance for Transgender People in Tripura - NDTV
· How 10,000 Sex Workers Are Living In Despicable Conditions In Kolkata's Sonagachi - Youth Ki Awaaz
· Does Death Sentence In Films Reflect Real Life? - The Citizen
Dalits In India & Blacks in America
Note: Please find attachment for DMW Hindi (PDF)
RAPE VICTIMS SET ABLAZE
Wednesday, 29 July 2015 | Pioneer News Service | Lucknow | in Lucknow
In a sensational incident, an accused of kidnapping and rape of a 18-year-old girl, had tried to burnt alive the victim in broad daylight in Sambhal district on Tuesday.
The victim who received more than 70 percent burn injury was referred to Medical College in Aligarh where she now battling for her life. The local police who was informed of the incident claimed to be making efforts to nab the criminals.
Reports said that one Vijay Jatav, a resident of Arola Nawazi in Gunnaur locality of Sambhal, had kidnapped a 18-year-old Dalit girl and later raped her after confining her in their custody for two days. The family members registered a case in this regard against the accused Vijay Jatav, resident of the same area. Local police registered a case and arrested Vijay and sent him to jail last year in December.
Reports said that in the meantime, Vijay's family started threatening the girl's family and tried to force them to withdraw the case. However, the family members refused and informed the local police of the development. Finally few days back, Vijay managed to get out on bail and he threatened the girl either to withdraw charges against him or be ready to face the consequences. The family members once again told the police about it but the cops refused to take cognizance.
Reports said that the negligence of the police proved costly for the victim's family when Vijay Jatav along with one of his aide identified as Rajendra Yadav, intercepted the girl when she was going in connection with some work on Tuesday morning. They sprinkle kerosene over her clothes and set her ablaze to burn her alive. The girl somehow doused the fire but she already received more than 70 percent burn till then. She was rushed to Government Hospital where the local police got her Rsdying declaration' recorded before a magistrate and later shifted her to Aligarh. Two teams were also formed to arrest both the accused who absconded soon after the incident.
Meanwhile in Ballia, Two actors of Bhojpuri films were seriously injured in an acid attack in Narayanpur village. The incident occurred when Rupali (20) and Vikas (19) were sleeping in the compound of a college where they were shooting for the film under Rasra Kotwali police station area were when one Ajay Kumar threw acid on them, Assistant superintendent of police K C Goswami said. Both were rushed to a nearby community health centre from where they were referred to the district hospital where the condition of Rupali was stated to be critical. Ajay Kumar, director of Bhojpuri films, had been sore with Rupali as she was working with Vikas against his wish, Goswami said adding that efforts were on to nab the culprit who is absconding.
Puttur: Youth held for attempting rape of Dalit girl
Daijiworld Media Network - Puttur (SP)
Puttur, Jul 29: In an incident which occurred in the taluk on Tuesday July 28, a youth, who fled after failing to rape a Dalit girl, was nabbed by some locals and handed over to Kadaba police station. The incident occurred at Sorake in Sarve village near Kadaba, and people who chased him till Savanur caught hold of the fleeing youth.
The accused, Afzal (18), who was arrested the police, hails from Kaniyoor, and happens to be a student of government PU college at Kaniyoor here, it is gathered.
The girl, who studies in a PU college in the town, was going home after college hours, when Afzal approached her in a motor bike. He forcibly stuffed cloth into her mouth and tried to rape her, it is learnt. The girl succeeded in shouting for help, at which the youth developed cold feet and escaped. The locals followed him and nabbed him at Savanur with help from locals. Hundreds of people had gathered at the spot.
The student, who was injured in the incident, stands admitted into the government hospital here. The rural police station personnel took the accused into their custody, and registered case under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.
Cops rape and kill her, later label her a Naxal
DC | Rabindra Nath Choudhury | July 29, 2015, 10.07 am IST
Raipur: A tribal girl raped and then killed, allegedly by policemen at Nawadih in north Chhattisgarh district of Balrampur in 2011, had nothing to do with Naxals, a judicial probe into the incident has found.
The one-member judicial commission headed by retired district and sessions judge Anita Jha, probing the incident, has dismissed the claim by the police that Meena Khalkho (13) was killed after being caught in a cross-fire between Naxals and security forces on the outskirts of the village of Nawadih on July 6, 2011 and that she was a Maoist.
"There is no police record to establish that Meena Khalkho was a Naxal. There was also no evidence to support the claim by the police that an encounter took place between Naxals and security forces at Nawadih on the day, since there were no reports of any casualty or injury to policeman in the incident," the commission said.
The commission, which submitted its report to the state government recently, found that Meena was raped and then killed.
She succumbed to injuries caused by police bullets, the probe revealed. The state government has earlier withdrawn 17 policemen deployed in the area and attached them to the local district headquarters following the incident.
Holding the police guilty of rape and murder of the minor tribal girl, the commission sought strong action against the erring policemen.
The commission also sought further probe by the crime investigation department. Meanwhile, the Opposition Congress has demanded a CBI probe into the incident in the wake of findings by the judicial commission.
The New Indian Express
Be Proactive, DGP Directs Senior Cops
By Express News Service Published: 29th July 2015 04:56 AM Last Updated: 29th July 2015 04:58 AM
MADURAI: Concerned over the poor conviction rates in cases of grave crimes, the Tamil Nadu Director General of Police Ashok Kumar has asked all the senior police officials to take up more responsibilities during the charge-sheeting stage to improve the conviction rate, police sources here said.
According to sources, in a circular sent recently to all the senior officials in the ranks of IGs, DIGs and SPs, the DGP has pointed out that one of the primary reasons for poor conviction rates was "faulty investigation.
Stating that such poor conviction rates show the police department in poor light, he had asked all officers in the ranks of SPs and Deputy Commissioners of Police (DCs) to thoroughly scrutinize the charge-sheets of grave criminal cases to fix any loophole in the probe before the cases go for trial.
According to the circular any loophole should be fixed and the charge-sheet accordingly reworked. A senior police official said the present procedures do not mandate the SPs and DCs to scrutinize the charge-sheets.
The DGP is believed to have asked the SPs and DCs to do this scrutiny for serious offences like murders, rapes, dowry deaths, robberies and cases booked under the SC ST Prevention of Atrocities Act.
Though the data for 2014 is yet to be made available, the National Crime Records Bureau data for 2013 shows that TN has fared badly compared to rest of the country in conviction rates.
For instance, the conviction rate for murders in TN in 2013 is 28.5 percent while the national average is 36.5 percent. In Rapes and Dowry Deaths, the conviction rate is 26.2 percent and 24.1 ercent respectively, while the national average for the same are 27.1 percent and 32.3 percent.
In cases under the SC ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, the conviction rate is abysmally low at 11.1 percent in TN while nationally it is 15.9 percent. The only area where TN has fared better is in Robbery cases where the conviction rate is 40.4 percent, way above the national average of 29.8 percent.
Police sources said the DGP has also asked the officers in the ranks of IGs and DIGs to monitor and guide the SPs and DCs in important cases during the investigations and trials to ensure better conviction rates.
Sources added that the circular also urged that training courses on Investigations for officers in the ranks of SIs and above be conducted regularly to improve investigation and conviction rates.
The Hindustan Times
New child labour law will hit girls, dalits and OBCs most
Updated: Jul 29, 2015 08:29 IST
It was a showpiece legislation when it was launched by the UPA government in 2009. The Right to Education, many hoped, would ensure a decent level of primary education to those who cannot afford expensive private education. The scheme started with much fanfare, but in a few years, reports started coming out that while enrolment in schools has shot up (almost 99% now), the quality of education has not kept pace. In the last 10 years, the 10th Annual Status of Education Report says, the overall situation with basic reading continues to be extremely "disheartening" in the country.
The reasons are: Lack of adequate infrastructure, severe shortage of well-trained teachers and poor institutional support for teachers' professional development. As if these problems were not enough, a new Centre-backed survey has revealed that around 60 lakh children between the ages of six and 13 years are out of school in the country.
Alarmingly, 50% of them are from SC and ST communities and 36% are from Other Backward Classes. At 77%, a majority of out-of-school children are from rural areas. Besides, 15.57 lakh Muslim children are also out of school, comprising 25% unschooled children. The staggering data shows that despite all efforts, many children are not able to exercise their right to education. One reason is economic, of course. Poor parents often take their wards to work and they miss out on school. Another case in point can be of migrants' children, who hardly get to stay at one place.
Now, the proposed amendment to the Child Labour (prohibition) Act, which will be placed in Parliament any day now, will leave the door open for large-scale use of child labour by legitimising their work in households, purportedly outside school hours and during vacations. Girls, Dalits and OBC children will be the worst sufferers as a majority of child labourers are recruited from these social groups. Muslims and other marginalised communities are also forced into low-grade employment due to their low educational attainments. This amendment will also run against the NDA government's Beti Bachao Andolan. Meanwhile, getting children to school is just one part of the battle, the larger battle is to retain and educate them well. On this, all indices show that India has been failing its children, especially the poor and marginalised.
The New Indian Express
Professor: Social Injustice Triggers Migration
By Express News Service Published: 29th July 2015 06:00 AM Last Updated: 29th July 2015 06:01 AM
BENGALURU: Social discrimination and lack of economic stability force socio-economic minorities to migrate to other villages or cities, Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) chairman Sukhdeo Thorat said on Tuesday.
Hence, the state government should ensure social equality in villages, Prof Thorat said while inaugurating a seminar on 'Distress labour migration within and towards southern Indian states' organised by the Indian Social Institute. A Labour and Migration Unit of the institute was also inaugurated on the occasion.
Thorat said migration of Scheduled Castes and Tribes is triggered by social barricades and lack of social status. People in distress migrate out of compulsion and end up in a situation worse than before. They work for very low wages and that too in bad conditions, he said.
Stating that dalit labourers face discrimination in hiring, he said in rural areas, they are denied employment in certain categories. Dalits also constitute a high proportion of bonded labourers in the country, he said. The findings of the 2011 India census point to a decade of rural distress as a key reason for the acceleration in inter-state and intra-state labour migration. The 2008 National Sample Survey (NSS) data also shows that 39 per cent of the population in Karnataka are intra-state migrants.
"The collapse of livelihoods of millions in the agriculture and related sectors led to unemployment, poverty and hunger, and accelerated distress migration from rural to urban regions across states," Thorat said.
He said these migrants face huge challenges in their search for security and income. Often exploited by human traffickers, and forced to work as bonded labourers, especially in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, they work in inhuman conditions and often lose their freedom to an advance received from the trafficker.
Bonded labour is common in brick kilns, rock quarries, rice mills, garment factories, waste-recycling units and several other labour intensive industries, Thorat said.
Martin Puthussery, coordinator, Labour and Migration Unit, said, "Migrant workers' basic needs are neglected by employers and most often, they have no identity cards and housing and they receive very low wages. They are forced to work for long hours and have no way of formally organising themselves to ensure fair treatment."
He said since migrant workers come from all over the country, they also face the challenge of not knowing the local language and culture and lack local contacts to assist them.
107 Bonded Labourers Rescued
According to a Labour and Migration Unit report, in May, 107 bonded labourers from Assam, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Nepal were rescued from an incense factory in Kanakapura.
These labourers had not received any salary, and were not allowed to step outside the factory, some of them for up to three years.
The Times Of India
49% of Haryana's dalit kids are malnourished: Report
Manvir Saini,TNN | Jul 29, 2015, 02.58 AM IST
CHANDIGARH: As much as 49% of the children from families falling in Scheduled Caste category in Haryana are malnourished, claimed a report by an NGO working for dalits.
National Confederation of Dalit Organizations (NACDOR) presented the report, prepared under National Campaign on Nutrition for Dignity (NCND), during a consultation seminar organized in Chandigarh.
"This study is of national importance to build new strategies and change our approach towards the betterment of dalits and other groups that have been marginalized for centuries. Now nutrition needs to be given the utmost priority," said NACDOR chairman Ashok Bharti.
A delegation of NACDOR team also met transport and housing minister Krishan Lal Panwar to take up this issue with Haryana government. But the state additional chief secretary (women and child development) Avtar Singh expressed inability to comment on the matter saying he was yet to see the report.
NACDOR is an apex body of more than 2,100 dalit outfits working in 24 states of India. With the support from Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), it started NCND to ensure nutritious diet security to dalits and adivasis (tribals). The campaign is gaining momentum in 14 states as the NGO has conducted grassroot social audits and created report cards on the status of nutrition among dalits and adivasis, a social audit manual of nutrition schemes and national status report on nutritional status.
Findings of NACDOR report
49% dalit children under five years are underweight in Haryana
51% of Muslim children are underweight vis-a-vis 38% of Hindu children and 31% Sikh children
53% dalit children are stunted or too short for their age
47% boys and 44% of girls are stunted
Anaemia is a major health problem in Haryana, especially among SC women and children
Prevalence of anaemia in Haryana is 2% point higher than the national average
80% of dalit children in the 6-59 months age group are anaemic in Haryana
Rs. 500 Allowance for Transgender People in Tripura
All India | Press Trust of India | Updated: July 28, 2015 19:18 IST
AGARTALA: The Tripura government today announced an allowance ofRs. 500 per month for the transgender people in the state.
Chief Minister Manik Sarkar said that the decision to provide allowance to each transgender person was taken in the meeting of the council of minister.
He said that the council of ministers today also approved to introduce three new pension schemes for leprosy patents, AIDS patients and female domestic workers.
"While the female domestic workers will be paid a monthly pension of Rs.350, other categories will be paid Rs. 500 per month", Mr Sarkar said.
Mr Sarkar also said that the government decided to pay a monthly pension of Rs. 500 for Anganwadi workers and Rs.350 for Anganwadi helpers after their retirement at the age of 60.
Story First Published: July 28, 2015 19:18 IST
Youth Ki Awaaz
How 10,000 Sex Workers Are Living in Despicable Conditions in Kolkata's Sonagachi
By Heenali Patel:
The muggy midday heat pervades everything, mixing with the stench of car fumes and summer-fatigued bodies. I venture into a web of dusty alleyways, pock-marked with holes, and rickshaw-wallahs taking refuge in the shade of ramshackle buildings. The occasional honk of a horn is the only sound that breaks the murmuring quiet that has settled over this sleepy pocket of town. Beside the gateway to an abandoned rubbish pit, a young woman rocks a baby on her knees. As she sees me approach, she pulls her child closer, arching her back over to protect him. I turn the corner, just in time to spy a small veiled figure slip from one doorway and into another. Here, bodies never seem to venture far from the shadows, and faces remain half-hidden from unwanted eyes.
It is little wonder that Sonagachi in Kolkata has an oppressive air hanging over it. Home to one of the largest red light districts in Asia, the area accommodates an innumerable cohort of at least 10,000 sex workers in a dizzying maze of shoebox rooms and street-side stalls. Even less documented are their children, lovers, babu partners, kotha malkeen madams, pimps and traffickers. These women occupy a murky world, far removed from the main streets of Kolkata. A lack of attention from the local and national governments has exacerbated their vulnerability, making them prime targets for abuse from local gangsters and police authorities.
Prostitution laws in India deem exchanging sex for money as legal, but classify brothel-based activities and trafficking as illicit. It is unlawful for a sex worker to solicit customers publicly and to live off the earnings of sex work. This activity is punishable by up to six months imprisonment and/or a sizeable fine. Despite this, there are an estimated three million prostitutes in India according to the Ministry of Women and Child Development. For all its legal ambiguity, commercial sex work remains unregulated, with even fewer sources of hard data monitoring the incidence of forced labour. Regulatory boards set up within Sonagachi itself claim that only 38 underage girls and 23 'unwilling women' entered the sex trade in Kolkata in 2012. International bodies like UNICEF however, stipulate that India is home to half of the world's one million children who enter the sex trade each year, with Kolkata, New Delhi and Mumbai listed as the main centres for prostitution.
One need not wander far into the red light district to see that India's current policies on sex work and trafficking are inadequate and ineffective. Punishments are meted out to sex workers only, with no laws seeking to penalise their clients or the individuals who manage and extort them. I met Suvitha, a sex worker who has been living in Sonagachi for over twenty years, in a tiny room covered in flaky blue paint, attached to a courtyard complex.
"We have no protections if the police catch us. Nobody wants to help us when we get into trouble." She sits cross-legged on the dusty floor, occasionally running her fingers through the numerous scars that run along her arms. "Usually when people find out what I do, they want nothing to do with me or my daughter."
In Bengali, the verb to enter sex work, 'nama', is also used to describe falling or descending. The social stigma attached to prostitution is so great that sex workers have been prevented from accessing public sector services, and have children who are denied entry to school.
"When the school found out where my daughter lived, the children bullied her. The school told her that she could not go back there."
The only way to improve the lot of sex workers is to first bring about a change in the social attitudes that confine them. Any form of development, whether monitoring and controlling the spread of HIV, or ensuring that sex workers' children receive a formal education, must be preceded by widespread recognition of their social, emotional and material needs. Known internationally as one of the largest sex worker co-operatives in India, the Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee has been campaigning to gain such rights for over two decades. Durbar programme director Bharati Dey, a former sex worker, summarises the situation for most workers in Sonagachi.
"Any criminalisation of sex work reinforces harmful stigmas and creates a black market where child prostitution and trafficking thrive. You have local goons and corrupt police extorting money, beating us and forcing us into unprotected sex."
The DMSC runs its campaigns from the Sonagachi district itself, with initiatives that spread across West Bengal, including a STD/ HIV Intervention Programme that began in the 1990's. The organisation claims to have increased condom usage from 2.7% in 1992 to 91% in 2010, and to have stabilised HIV prevalence to 5.2%. The statistics may be closer to a desired eventuality than the present reality. As the 1997 Manifesto of The First National Conference of Sex Workers claims, 'even when aware of the necessity of using condoms to prevent disease, an individual may be compelled to jeopardise her health for fear of losing her clients, or may not be in a position to negotiate safer sex under exploitative madams or pimps.'
DMSC Research officer Dr. Protim Ray explains how the lack of laws targeting clients and pimps prevents the organisation from instating change through any other medium other than the sex workers themselves. His latest initiative to treat HIV-positive workers focuses on the use of technology to reach more workers.
"Our research is on how to increase adherence to anti-retro-viral treatment for HIV positive individuals. This is being done by sending messages to them on their mobile phones. They get messages at specified times to remind them to take their medicines."
When I ask if the project is proving to be effective, his answer is measured but vague. "We have done a baseline. We need to do more follow ups to come to a conclusion. But we feel in the very first follow-up that there has been good feedback."
A second project just initiated by DMSC surrounds the ongoing Ebola epidemic in West Africa. Although there have so far been no cases of the disease spreading to India, health supervisors in Sonagachi are wary of the high number of West African customers that frequent the area, and the potential risks that this may entail. Last week, DMSC chief advisor Dr. Smarajit Jana began a series of sessions for community members on the symptoms of Ebola. His advice for workers to refuse sex to all West African clients, however, may fall on deaf ears in an industry where rape, coercion and exploitation are rife.
Social exclusion of sex workers is perpetuated by a refusal of the government and society to regulate other individuals that operate in the red light districts. Whilst organisations like the DMSC have achieved better awareness of sex worker rights and social programmes for betterment, the lack of regulations on clients and pimps in the industry undermines their good intentions. As I make my final visit to Sonagachi, I meet a six year old boy called Adith, quietly drawing in a run-down street hovel with a prized set of colouring pencils. He proudly shows me his picture, a rendering of the Indian flag. "I love my country," he says to me by way of explanation. "I love making pictures of it."
One can only hope that India will start to give Adith a good reason to continue doing so.
Does Death Sentence In Films Reflect Real Life?
SHOMA A.CHATTERJI Tuesday, July 28, 2015
A recent finding reveals that the death sentence in India is skewed against the poor. (Times of India, July 21, 2015). The findings are part of an on-going study conducted by the National Law University students with the help of the Law Commission currently engaged in a wider consultation with different stakeholders on the issue of death penalty and whether it should be abolished. The statistical findings spell out how interviews with 373 death row convicts over a 15-year period, shows that three-fourths of those given the death penalty belonged to backward classes, religious minorities and 75% were from economically weaker sections.
How far is this true? How has Hindi cinema reflected the death sentence in its films? Has it been neutral about delivering the death sentence in democratic manner without bias? Or have films reflected the bias that exists against the poor in real life as the above study – the first one of its kind in the country, bears out? Five films described below will surprise us with the way they reflect the bias that exists within the death sentence in real life.
Mrigaya (1976) was a Hindi film set in a small hamlet in Bengal peopled by an adivasi tribe that barely ekes out a hand-to-mouth existence through hunting. It was based on Shikar, a short story by Oriya writer Bhagbati Charan Panigrahi. But Mrinal Sen said it was a story that could happen at any time, anywhere to anyone. Ghinua, a young Santhal, is a sharp archer and the Saahib or administrator favours him because he is fond of big game hunting. But during a fracas in the hamlet, Ghinua's wife is kidnapped by the moneylender. Ghinua kills the moneylender and rescues his wife. He then goes to the Saahib because the big game hunt is about to begin. But the Saahib sentences him to death. Ghinua is shocked because the same Saahib rewarded the police informer for killing Sholpu, a revolutionary from among the tribe. Till his death, Ghinua fails to understand why one man is rewarded for committing murder while he is sentenced to death. The Santhals are Dalits, extremely poor and illiterate too. Mithun Chakraborty won the National Award for his performance in this debut film.
Aakrosh (1980) marked the directorial debut of cinematographer Govind Nihalani. Aakrosh is listed among the top 60 films that shaped the Indian film industry spanning six decades. Aakrosh forms a part of the series of works, based around explorations in violence, written by Vijay Tendulkar. Lahanya Bhiku(Om Puri) a tribal arrested for killing is wife Nagi (Smita Patil) though he did not kill her. She was gang-raped by the so-called educated elders of the small town and killed later. They found Bhiku an excellent scapegoat to arrest for a murder he did not commit because he was an untouchable, he was illiterate and he was poor. Though a young lawyer Bhaskar Kulkarni (Naseeruddin Shah) trying his first case appeals to him to tell him his side of the story, Bhiku's only response is with silence. It is an explosive silence that sends its echoes far and wide till he finally explodes. When he is brought to the crematorium to light his father's funeral pyre, he picks an axe and chops off his young sister's head to save her from the same treatment meted out to his wife. He knows that the sentence for two murders will be the same as one. He knows he will be hanged and his last act of rescue is to kill his sister.
Massey Sahib (1985) was directed by Pradip Kishen and the main role was portrayed by Raghubir Yadav. It was an adaptation of Joyce Cary's novel Mister Johnson (1939). Francis Massey works as a clerk in the Deputy Commissioner's office in a small town in Central India in 1929. Despite his brown colour, his name gives him an attitude and he aspires to be like the colonial rulers. He tries his best to pander to the machinations of his boss Commissioner Charles Adam and indulges in machinations and manipulations of his own of which most are through illegal means and attract the label of corruption. But he is eager to please the big boss and when he is accused of corruption, his boss backs out of helping him. When his wife is taken back by force by her parental family, he requests his friend Banaji to help him fetch her back. But he refuses and he kills him in frustration on the spur of the moment. When he is arrested for Banaji's murder, Adams advises him to plead guilty to accidental manslaughter. But Massey refuses because he has full faith that Adams will save him in the end. Adams does not and Massey, a convert to Christianity, a poor and semi-educated man who believes he is of high birth by virtue of his name, is sentenced to death. Yadav picked up two international awards for his portrayal in the title role in his debut film.
Many have forgotten Prakash Jha's Damul (1985) but it is one of the boldest films that seamlessly explored the casteist and capitalist politics in some pockets of rural India like Bihar. Through the unfolding of Damul, the viewer is almost continuously exposed to a series of audiovisual shocks. There is murder in cold blood, there are mass killings of defenseless people, sexual blackmail of a helpless young widow of high caste, the holding of an entire basti to ransom, gheraoing the basti to stop the residents from casting their votes, subjecting them to the mandatory repayment of debts they had never taken, forcing them to steal cattle for the landlord who leaves them to die if and when caught, but not at his doorstep. The final blow comes when Sanjeevana (Annu Kapoor), an innocent Harijan from the Dalit basti is sentenced to be hanged to death because he turned wise to the landlord's wicked ways. He had not committed any crime. Are these shocks deliberate? Yes they are. Are they incidental to the script? They are that too. They are meant to shock the viewer out of the cool cocoon of the comfort he is watching the film in.
The camera captures the subtle nuances of the facial expressions in close-up, the atmosphere to place the situations in perspective in medium and long shots. The light in the Harijan basti is muted and natural – a glow here, a soft light there, the fiery flames consuming the basti and thereby heightening the credibility of the event or scene. The final shot shows the entire screen covered with a marbling effect coming from the blood-soaked palm of the zamindar, the camera moving in deliberate slow motion. The soundtrack is dotted with the humming of crickets at night and ordinary conversation in the day. The generous use of percussion instruments on the soundtrack, devoid of any song, raises the tension and underlines the drama. The editing is slick without any jerks and jars that the violence could have justified. "Damul" means hanging. Does the title refer to Samjeevana's death sentence brought about by the political manipulation of the powerful zamindar and his men? Or does Sanjeevana's death become a metaphor for the death of honesty, innocence, conscience and justice?
Purush (1984) directed by ace cinematographer the late Rajen Kothari, depicts a woman walking up to the gallows quietly, her face immobile and her gait dignified. Adapted by a very successful staged play by Jaywant Dalvi, this film tells the story of Ambika, a young school teacher, the only child of low-middle class parents who rises against the sexual exploitation of women by the powerful politician in general and her own gruesome rape by the same politician by cutting off his vital organ – performing a Bobbit on him. She does not regret her action and takes the death sentence in her stride. Her fiancé ditches her and her mother goes insane but she sticks to her revenge that kills her rapist slowly and more gruesomely than the rape he committed on her. Ambika is a woman, an educated woman belonging to the low middle class who becomes a threat to the upper classes in the same neighbourhood. Her guts is another threat to the men in the neighbourhood who shun her for her courage and her capacity to resist power. When legal pursuits fail, she takes law in her own hands.
Cinema reflects life as these films have shown so far as the bias against Dalits, minorities and the poor are concerned. Dhananjoy Chatterjee, the young security guard who was hanged in Kolkata some years ago for raping and killing a school girl, did not tire of saying, "I would not have been hanged if I was not so poor." Does that ring a bell somewhere?
News monitored by Girish Pant & AJEET
On behalf of
Dalits Media Watch Team
(An initiative of "Peoples Media Advocacy & Resource Centre-PMARC")
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