Thursday, October 23, 2014

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Lynching of boy underlines how the curse of caste still blights India

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: PVCHR ED <>
Date: Tue, Oct 21, 2014 at 1:10 PM
Subject: Lynching of boy underlines how the curse of caste still blights India
To: jrlawnhrc <>, jrlawnhrc <>, US-C <>
Cc: "A.K. Parashar" <>, NHRC <>,,

To, Chairperson,
National Human Rights Commission,
New Delhi.

Dear Sir,
Greetings from PVCHR.

Please finds follows story of atrocities of schedule caste in Bihar.

In another time, another place, Sai Ram might have escaped serious harm. But he died in great pain last week, a casualty of a bitter, barely reported conflict that still claims many lives every year.
Ram, 15, was a goatherd in a village in the poor eastern Indian state of Bihar. He was a Dalit, from the lowest rung of the caste hierarchy that still defines the lives, and sometimes the deaths, of millions of people in the emerging economic power.
His alleged killer, currently being held by local police, is from a higher landowning caste. He took offence when one of the teenager’s goats strayed on to his paddy field and grazed on his crops. Ram was overpowered by the landowner and a group of other men. He was badly beaten.
Then petrol was poured over him and lit, Ram’s father, Jiut Ram, said. “He was crying for help, then went silent,” the 50-year-old daily wage labourer told the Guardian.
The incident took place at Mohanpur village, about 125 miles (200km) south-west of Bihar’s capital, Patna, in an area known for caste tensions. It was the latest in a series of violent incidents that have once again highlighted the problems and discrimination linked to caste, particularly in lawless and impoverished rural areas.
Earlier this month, five Dalit women were allegedly gang-raped by upper-caste men in central Bihar’s Bhojpur district. In September, hundreds of Dalit families were forced from their homes in two other districts of Bihar after a man from the community tried to contest a local election against higher caste candidates.
Several political, social and economic factors usually lie behind such upsurges in caste-related violence. One reason for Bihar’s recent incidents may be the appointment in May of Jitan Ram Manjhi, a Dalit, as the chief minister of the state.
Since taking power Manjhi has announced measures to help other Dalits in Bihar, one of India’s poorest states, and is reported to have urged the community to have more children to become a more powerful political force.
Dalits account for some 15% of Bihar’s population of 103.8 million.
The chief minister’s call was not well received by members of other castes, local observers said.
Sachindra Narayan, a prominent Patna-based social scientist with the National Human Rights Commission in Delhi, said: “The prime reason [for the violence] is that [Dalits] feel empowered after seeing someone from their community at the head of the state and have begun to assert their rights. This is purely a retaliation from the dominant social groups.”
Manjhi claims a temple in northern Bihar was ritually cleaned and idols washed with holy water after his visit to the shrine. Such ceremonies are still performed by upper castes to eradicate “pollution” left by lower-caste visitors.
“A deep-rooted bias prevails against … those from the downtrodden sections of society … I have myself been a victim of caste bias,” the 70-year-old said.
Opponents claim Manjhi was stoking caste tensions for political advantage.
In the vast neighbouring state of Uttar Pradesh, caste is also a major political issue, with power contested by two parties that broadly represent two different caste communities. That of Mayawati explicity campaigns for Dalits, while the ruling Samajwadi party is seen by many as representing the Yadavcommunity, once pastoralists.
Caste became a factor in recent national elections too. The prime minister, Narendra Modi, comes from a poor family from the lower-caste Ghanchicommunity, which is associated with selling oil. His rise from humble origins to leader of 1.25 billion people has inspired many – but also provoked scorn from elite politicians who have mocked his background.
The origins of caste are contested. Some point to ancient religious texts, others to rigid classifications of more local definitions of community and identities by British imperial administrators. The word “caste” is of Portuguese origin.
Regardless of its origins, the word still has the power to stir controversy. Arundhati Roy, the Booker prize-winning author, recently accused Mahatma Gandhi, India’s revered independence leader, of discrimination and called for institutions bearing his name to be renamed because of his attitude to caste.
She said: “It is time to unveil a few truths about a person whose doctrine of nonviolence was based on the acceptance of the most brutal social hierarchy ever known, the caste system … Do we really need to name our universities after him?
Sociologists say the rapid urbanisation of India has weakened the caste system as the realities of living in overcrowded Indian cities make reinforcing social separation and discrimination through rituals or violence much harder.
But if change is coming to places like rural Bihar, it is often accompanied by violence.
Last October a roadside bomb killed Sunil Pandey, a landowner who was alleged to be a senior figure in a militia formed in 1994 to enforce the interests of higher castes in the state, but which has been largely dormant recently.
The Ranvir Sena militia, formed by men of the Bhumihar caste of landlords, is held responsible for a series of massacres of Dalits in the 1990s. These murders, in effect reprisals against local Maoist guerrillas, who have also killed many, reached a bloody climax with the deaths of 58 men, women and children with no connection to extremism in the village of Lakshman Bathe in 1998. Ranvir Sena and Pandey were blamed.
Last year 24 men had their convictions for that massacre overturned by Bihar’s high court, prompting renewed clashes.
The authorities have pledged rapid justice for Ram, the 15-year-old burned to death last week. But of nearly 17,000 pending trials in Bihar involving charges of violence against Dalits only a 10th were dealt with last year.
“We are going to … start speedy trial of the case,” Chandan Kumar Kushwaha, the local superintendent of police, said, while the chief minister told reporters he was taking a personal interest in the case.
“I have talked to the state’s director general of police and district superintendent of police concerned, and ordered them to … deliver instant justice to the victim [sic] family,” Manjhi said.
For the teenager’s father, nothing can compensate for the death of his son. “My entire world is lost now,” he said.
Pleas take immediate appropriate action for legal action and compensation in above mentioned case and  a proper guidelines to all states to prevent and end above mentioned crime against humanity.
With regards,
Lenin Raghuvanshi
Member,NGO core group at NHRC
SA 4/2 A, Daualtpur, Varanasi-221002

Sunday, October 05, 2014

A new book of Dr. Archana Kaushik and Ms. Shruti Nagvanshi is going to publish

About the Book

Human civilizations have come a long way in struggling for emancipation from all forms of exploitation, abuse, oppression, exclusion and marginalization of the fellow-beings. There are situations in the social environment that precipitate inequality and injustice, adding to vulnerabilities and impoverishments, hardships and miseries to certain sections of society, which, even after much of efforts, are not resolved amicably — such circumstances call for social action.

The present work is a humble attempt to document the process of intervention that led to empowerment of the Dalits in Varanasi district of Uttar Pradesh, India. Under the aegis of People’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR) – a civil society initiative, a few committed and motivated workers mobilized the downtrodden and oppressed Dalits and gradually ‘empowered’ them to take charge of their lives. It is the process towards developing model villages while addressing the social inequalities that had shackled the lives of most underprivileged and marginalized people in the community.

Empowering people who have been socialized and conditioned for ages to be resource-less, powerless and voiceless victims to the dominant upper caste, who have accepted that poverty, chronic malnutrition, abuse, exploitation and injustice as their fate, who struggle, almost unendingly, throughout their life to somehow gather two square meals to keep their body and soul together, is indeed a arduous task. It required more than a decade’s unflinching hard work, consistency and commitment to see some positive change in the lives of Dalits in the area of intervention. The present work has tried to sketch that process of social action, which challenged the elitism, thereby changing the social order to be more egalitarian. This work records the changing identity among Dalits through the process of empowerment in Varanasi district of Uttar Pradesh, India.

About the authors: One of the author, Dr. Archana Kaushik, is a social work educator, teaching at Department of Social Work, University of Delhi. And, the other – Ms. Shruti Nagvanshi has been a field practitioner, the managing Trustee and Co-founder of PVCHR. Shruti Nagvanshi, has been a part of the team that led the intervention that is being talked about in the book. She has witnessed the entire journey of empowerment that has come among many lower caste people collectively termed as Dalits. The experiential reality shared by Shruti is amalgamated with conceptual and theoretical perspectives and presented in this book by Archana, using her knowledge as social work educator.

USP of the book: The literature, in general, and social work literature, in particular, is full of manuals and books on community organization and empowerment, Dalit empowerment and related topics. However, there has always been dearth of materials emerging out of field practice that facilitate testing, verifying, accepting or rejecting theories in the light of  experiences from the field. In this manner, this is a unique and enriching joint venture of an academician and practitioner in social work discipline. Human service professions, such as social work, can grow only if academics and field practice are strongly interconnected, complement, contribute and give insight and foresight to each other to rectify, improve and make itself suitable to meet the demands of fast changing socio-cultural milieu. While, the divorce or disconnect between the two would engulf both theory and practice, making them redundant and eventually extinct. It is in this backdrop, that the present work bears its significance. It depicts the interventions and strategies that have worked well in the field and hence have critical importance for academia. The book highlights the process of community empowerment.

The purpose of documenting the process of Dalit empowerment in the book is to facilitate social workers and other human service professionals to gain an insight into the challenges and problems change agents encounter in social action and approaches, strategies and models of intervention that ‘work’ in empowerment of deprived and marginalized groups and communities. For social planners and policy makers, the present work would provide enough food for thought and analysis that may result in planning of pro-poor and responsive policies and programmes. The social work educators, practitioners and students would appreciate the theoretical perspectives on different aspects of empowerment of downtrodden people gained through fieldwork practice. Hopefully, it would enrich their teaching, learning and practice.  

Contents of the book: A brief outline of the book is delineated here. It is important to note here that the names mentioned in the book, in various case studies, excerpts of interviews and interactions with Dalit and marginalized people, have been camouflaged to protect their identities. 

What it means to be born as Dalit in rural India? How taking birth in a particular family has almost complete bearing on access to resources and power? How rural people respond to authority – whether administrative, legal or charismatic? How caste system perpetuates domination and subjugation in myriad of ways? What is the psyche of the Dalit and how caste-based interiority is internalized? What is the relationship dynamics between Dalits – the oppressed and marginalized and upper caste – the oppressors? And how this relationship is defining and confining access to resources, decision-making power and opportunities to development and empowerment? The chapter one titled, ‘the context’ tries to answer these questions and pictures the backdrop of rural socio-cultural milieu where intervention efforts for empowerment of Dalits have been made.

The chapter two ‘praxis to practice’ lays out the theoretical framework that has guided our action. It conceptualizes the term empowerment, its salient features and components. It provides sociological and psychological perspectives to the process of empowerment from powerlessness and vulnerability. It presents the modalities and models we followed in making the marginalized groups and communities aware, conscientized and ready to act for their rightful dues.  

Chapter three – In Belwa village, Dalits could never participate in the political process of electing their leaders, which is one of the basic rights of every major Indian. For years together, the upper caste leaders forged their votes and continued their unquestioned authority and control in grassroots governance. A few years back nobody could ever imagine that the Dalits of Belvan, who have been oppressed and suppressed, marginalized and excluded, could even voice their concerns. The social action carried out in the village ensured mobilization of Dalit community and their first victory as they marked their impressions on the ballot papers. It is the process of Dalit-empowerment from being led passively to becoming change makers. They not only acquired their right to vote but also nominated their own candidate in elections, who became the new village head. 
Chapter four ‘from starvation deaths to healthy living’ describes another process of social action in Badagaon in Pindra block where there were many reported and unreported cases of starvation deaths of Dalit children and the government machinery was totally indifferent and apathetic. It highlights how consistent and long struggle changed the system and now Badagaon is a model village in terms of ensuring Right to Health to Dalits. Similar interventions were carried out in many other villages and many lives could be saved with timely intervention.  

Chapter five sketches the role of young children bearing the torch of struggle for change with unflinching motivation and spirits, themselves becoming the role models for adults. Children’s parliament was constituted. 

Chapter six – Weaving Destiny through yarns of hardship – captures the plight and struggle of weavers who weave banarasi sarees, but are left with poverty, pain and grief. Their hands weave enchantingly gorgeous sarees but their life is filled with ugliness of impoverishment and poverty.

Chapter seven ‘from bondage to liberation’ is a case study of three brothers in Belwan village who were bonded labourers as children and depicts the process of their struggle, action and freedom. This event triggered enthusiasm among the bonded labourers, their families and social workers working for their rehabilitation and had ripple effect.

Chapter eight – Surviving torture to defending human rights – highlights the cases of police torture on innocent Dalits and their fight against their victimization. There have been numerous instances when police, without any proof, put Dalit inhabitants behind bars on the smallest pretext. The role of testimonial therapy and the process of uniting village fellow-men to collectively fight against perpetrators of torture have been highlighted in this chapter. 

The last chapter ‘Seeing Change’ summarizes the entire process of intervention and depicts the way forward. It opens up the issue of ‘neo-dalit movement’ that attacks caste system in a dynamic way.