[The Gujarat Earthquake in the year 2001 and the consequent relief and rehabilitation programme was an eyeopener to the outside world regarding the deep seated caste bias in the Gujarati community apart from the much talked about bias against the minorities. There were reports that at places the relief and rehabilitation work bypassed the dalits and the Muslims.
The organised genocide of Muslims in the year 2002 at the behest of the Sangh Parivar organisations which was aided and abetted by the Modi government was another occasion when the travails and tribulations of the dalits came under further scrutiny. While a section of the dalits cooption in the Hindutva agenda and their metamorphosis as foot soldiers of the Hindutva brigade was duly reported, the Varna dominated media did not deem it necessary to emphasise some related facts. The genocide in Gujarat had also a little dalit blood accompanying it. The dalits lost 108 lives in Gujarat, 38 alone in the city of Ahmedabad. Quite a few of these deaths occurred due to the dalits resisting the Hindutva goons by siding with hapless Muslims.
Interestingly Babasaheb Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar had asked his followers to stop Hindu Raj becoming a reality at all costs.)
1.WHO EXHUMED THE BODY OF THE TWO PLUS YEAR OLD AND WHY ?
It was the year 2001 when Naresh Solanki’s two and half year old nephew died. The aggrieved family from Hooda village Palanpur block of Banaskantha district went and buried him in the community burial grounds. No sooner they reached home came the news that a Patel community member from the village had literally exhumed the body of the child with a tractor.For the powerful patels who had encroached on some part of land next to the burial ground had felt offended with the burial.
It has been more than seven years that the incident took place, the dalits of Hooda village are still waiting for allotment of some land for burial from the collector and the village panchayat since then, but to no avail.It was only last year that one community elder died the dalits had to carry his body to another village, where fortunately Dalits there had a separate graveyard. .
But can it be said that the problem of no land even for burials is limited to Hooda or it is a statewide phenomenon. A report carried by ‘Mail Today’ in the first week of Feb, 2009 had thrown light on the issue. It tells us that dalits are not allowed to use common burial grounds and are often forced to use a part of waste land near the villages as burial grounds. Absence of any legal entitlement forces them to be pushed out of such lands by dominant upper castes.
A survey conducted by Gujarat Rajya Grampanchayat Samajik Nyay Samiti Manch found out that ‘[o]ut of 657 villages in Gujarat, 397 villages do not have any designated land alloted for burial for dalits. Out of the 260 villages where land has been formally allotted, 94 have seen encroachments by the dominant castes and in 26 villages it is a lowlying area and therefore the ground gets waterlogged.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that when the question of burying the deads comes up, dalits share a strange commonality with the Muslims. Muslims share similar predicament when they find their graveyards getting encroached by the dominant classes. Few years back the Gujarat Highcourt had to intervene and ask the State government to post police personnel as attempts were on to encroach upon the graveyard of Muslims in Patan..
2. TELL YOUR CASTE, LOOSE YOUR HOUSE !
If the dead dalits have no place of dignity in ‘Hindu Rashtra’, one can just imagine the status of the living. One test could be househunting as a dalit in Ahmedabad – capital of ‘Hindu Rashtra’ in making.
The general experience is that if a Dalit approache a upper caste builder for accommodation, he is either directly discouraged or tacitly denied.It is immaterial even if the Dalit belongs to a sound economic background. For the builders and real estate agents, selling property to even one Dalit family in a society becomes detrimental to sales.
Perhaps it is a marker of the deeply entrenched Varna/caste mindset, which has supposedly received new lease of life after the 2002 carnage, one witnesses a unique trend in Ahmedabad where “only Dalit residential societies – around 300 of them” have come up in recent years. In a recent study done by the Express reporter he emphasised that it “.. not a matter of choice, but of compulsion.” (A Dalit? Go find a Dalit society D P Bhattacharya Ahmedabad, June 17, 2007)”
“Even if a Dalit can afford a flat in areas dominated by the upper castes, they are often denied by the builders or the seller,” retired IAS officer P K Valera, who lives in one such Dalit society in Ramdevnagar, says. Some social scientists say the alienation started since 1982, after the anti-reservation agitation, but agree that the caste and class distinctions have become more serious in recent years. This trend can be seen not only in the walled city but also in the posh areas of west Ahmedabad like Satellite, Vastrapur, Bodakdev, Ambavadi. Socio-political scientist Achyut Yagnik says, “There are more than 300 Dalit societies in the city. In Chandkheda alone, there are 200 societies, most of which have come up after the 2002 riots when people moved out from Gomtipur, Bapunagar and Dani limda area. You will find construction contractors who only build Dalit societies.”
Of course this near segregation of dalits to specific areas under the great umbrella of Hindu Unity, does not stop the Sangh Parivar to use the dalits for their sectarian agenda during elections and riots.Even a cursory glance at the the list of the dead and wounded in the riots makes it clear that one finds names of only Muslims and Dalits, rest of the other castes are nominal.
Interestingly a dalit from outside the state, whose caste surnames are not identificable in the mainstream apartments, can easily get into it.
3. LOOK THE OTHER WAY, WHILE RECRUITING TEACHERS
What is common between all the non-granted schools in Gujarat whose numbers hovers around 3255 according the website of the Gujarat State Secondary and Higher Secondary Education Board. A close study of these schools may reveal many similarities but the foremost thing over which they seem to be united is to violate the statutroy provisions of the Education act 1972. None of them follow these provisions of the Education act. while it is mandatory for such schools to adhere to norm. End result, only handful of teachers from the scheduled communities in all these schools
Under the provisions of the education act – 1972, it is mandatory for all the granted and non-granted schools to abide by the reservation policy while making recruitments. And the rule says that if any school is found to be violating its provisions then its registration can be cancelled. Experience shows that the rule is openly flouted by the non-granted schools. Interestingly the state government has no qualms in accepting that they can’t compel the schools to do it as they are not given any aid.
It was only last year that Indian Express ( Vadodara, May 26, 2008) carried a big expose about this ongoing scam where ‘Government looks the other way as schools flout recruitment norms for teachers.’ According to the social justice and empowerment department, which is supposed to supervise the implementation of the reservation policy, the simple reason for the statutory provisions of the act being not implemented is the absence of a roster reservation act.
Question naturally arises why the state has still not deemed it necessary to take effective steps to stop such malpractice
In fact, a RTI application filed by a leading social worker of Gujrat enquiring about the no of teachers who have been recruited by the non-granted schools under the reservation policy, led to this expose of details.Expressing concern over the state of affairs, the social worker demanded two things : Cancelling the registration of errant schools and punishing the officers who have been responsible for getting the policy implemented.
4. HANDLING ATROCITIES CASES ATROCIOUSLY
What is the rate of conviction of cases under the Prevention of Atrocity Act against SC/ST in Gujarat ? It is mere 2.5 per cent while rate of acquittal is 97.5 per cent. A 23 page confidential report submitted by the state Social Justice Department to the State Chief Secretary and legal departments provides glaring examples of ‘mishandling of cases registered under Prevention of Atrocities Act against SC/ST. (Express, Sep 15, 2006).
The report provides details of how cases are not investigated properly by the police and the hostile role played by public prosecutors during time of trials.
– Act clearly stipulates that offence which are registered under this act cannot be investigated by an officer below the rank of DySP but more than 4,000 such cases have been investigated by Police Inspector or Police Sub Inspector.
– Acquittal of the perpetrator because victim not identified as member of SC or ST community. Reason, not attaching caste certificate of the victim with the case papers
– Public prosecutors false claims before the courts that act has been modified by the state government altough it is known that it is a central act
– Granting of anticipatory bails although there is no such provision in the act. Interestingly the Parliamentary Committee on SC and ST affairs had also expressed concern over such anticipatory bails granted ‘in atrocity cases in the state of Gujarat’.
In fact a detailed and systematic study of 400 judgements done by Vajibhai Patel, Secretary of Council for Social Justice compelled the government to work on this 23 page report. This report tells us that utterly negligent police investigation at both the higher and lower levels coupled with a distinctly hostile role played by the public prosecutors is the main reason for the collapse of cases filed under the atrocities act. It is worth noting that he has meticulously documented these judgements delivered under this act since April 1, 1995 in the Special Atrocity Courts set up in 16 districts of the state. The study also blasts the common perception is that the inefficacy of this law is due to false complaints being lodged or compromises between the parties, in actuality it is a complicit State that has rendered the Act toothless.
Perhaps the whole state of affairs was a continuation of the situation as it existed there.
The National Crime Records Bureau had made an observation few years back which went unnoticed. Coming to atrocities against Dalits, Gujarat ranks third in the country after U.P. and Bihar. (Asian Age, 11 April 2003) It’s earlier record also revealed a distrubing picture of the ‘Vibrant Gujarat’. According to its 1998 report, the total no of atrocities against dalits in the country were 25,617. Of these, 8894 cases were registered in Gujarat alone. 28 cases of rapes of dalit women were recorded that year, which was seventh highest in the country.
But when it came to taking steps to check offences against the SCs and STs the BJP government did nothing. The special dalit courts envisaged in all districts under the SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989 were still not a reality. Out of 26 districts of Gujarat, only 10 have been provided with special courts, although none of these 10 courts accord special status to dalit issues, according to Dalit activists. (same ref.)
5. AMBEDKAR’S PROGNOSIS
One can go on belching out statistics about Dalit’s situation as it exists in the first ‘Hindu Rashtra’ in Secular- Democratic India. Definitely our aim here is not to present a data bank on this theme.
Our main concern is to raise two points.
– Why the near secondary status granted to the dalits has not become an important issue in the anti-communal movement ?
– Why a section of dalits still feels enamoured about Hindutva, can it be said to be sign of its upward mobility within the Hindu religion or it is a marker of the hatred it had accumulated vis-a-vis the minority communities and getting ready to play out the Hindutva agenda on its own also.
It needs to be emphasised here that all over Gujarat one finds thousands and thousands of boards put at prominent places by one of the affiliates of the Sangh Parivar that ‘you are entering this or that locality of Hindu Rashtra’ which is completely illegal and an open proclamation of ’secession’ from the rest of the society.
At this juncture one thinks of Ambedkar’s prognosis vis-a-vis Hindu Rajya. In his book ‘Pakistan or Partition of India, page 358) written before partition of India, he clearly prophesises : “If Hindu Raj becomes a reality then it would be greatest menace to this country. Whatever may Hindus say, actually it does not make a difference that Hinduism is a danger to Independence, Equality and Brotherhood. Thus it is an enemy of democracy. We should make all out efforts to stop Hindu Raj from becoming a reality.” ( Pakistan or Partition of India, Page 358)
Is anybody listening ?