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Introduction

The plight of Dalits is one of the menacing realities in the 62 yr old independent nation India. Dalits literally mean broken people or the “untouchables” or the “outcaste” who are at the bottom of India’s caste system. They are also referred as “Schedule Caste” which refers to a list of socially deprived caste prepared by the British Government in 1935.[1] Dalit is a category that is used to describe 16 percent of India’s population or almost 160 million people. They live an insecured existence, rejected by much of the society because of their ranks as untouchables. Dalits are discriminated against, denied access to land, forced to work in degrading conditions and routinely abused at the hands of the police and of higher caste groups that enjoy state protection[2].

In terms of size, P.Sainath in his article “Dalits in India 2000”[3] reported “There are more Dalits in India than there are people in Pakistan. There are more Dalits in India than there are people in Brazil, marginally more. If taken as a national population they would be the fifth largest in the world after China, India, the United States and Indonesia. You are really taking about a very large section of humanity. They comprise about 16.48 per cent of India’s population and their contribution in terms of labor and their contribution to culture is enormous and significantly larger than their share in the population. What is disproportionately lower relative to their size in the population is their ownership of land and property and their access to education and to employment of a serious, meaningful and gainful nature.”

Image from e Hindu version

The practice of Untouchability – the imposition of social disabilities on persons by reason of birth, is central to caste. The abolishment of “Untouchabilty” was made enforceable through the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955, although it remains very much a part of rural India. Cases of this discrimination of this type in urban area often surfaces in news articles. Villages are segregated on the lines of caste in many parts of India. The higher caste may not use the same wells, visit the same temple, drink from the same cups or even lay claim to their land that is legally theirs. In schools, the dalit children are asked to segregate from the higher caste. There are a number of fights over burial grounds and burning ghats because in a very large number of villages, the Dalits are not allowed to use the burial grounds. A long list can be produced on discrimination on this line.

In terms of education and employment, dalits again lack behind. Most Dalits live in extreme poverty. They are absorbed in menial tasks as manual scavengers, removers of human waste and dead animals, leather workers, street sweepers and cobblers. Dalit men, women & children numbering in tens of millions work as agricultural labourers works for Rs. 15 – Rs. 35 a day.[4] Dalit women face the triple burden of caste, class & gender. According to Tamil Nadu State government official, the raping of Dalit women exposes the hypocrisy of the caste system as “no one practices untouchability when it comes to sex.”

Dalit voices have always remained unheard. In extreme cases, with the help of the so-called media, it is able to produce some stir. The struggle has been since a long period of time. The discrimination faced can’t be ignored but can be in a subtle manner. The response of the state has been in this pattern. Several laws came in. Laws granting Dakits special consideration for government jobs and education reach only a small percentage. Laws designed to ensure that Dalits enjoy equal rights and protection has seldom been enforced. Laws of land reform and protection of Dalits remains unimplemented in most of the Indian states. The reasons mainly being police corruption and caste baisedness.

Dalits through out the country also suffer in many instances from de facto disenfranchisement. During election, those persuaded by typical electioneering are routinely threatened and beaten by political party strongmen in order to compel them to vote for certain candidates.

Due to the lack in access of mainstream political organizations and the pace of reforms, Dalits have begun to resist subjugation and discrimination in two ways: Peaceful protest and armed struggle. But Dalits who dare to challenge the social order become victim of the structures that firmly guard the caste system.

It is seen that the Dalits are discriminated everywhere. Being inexistence seem to be an easy answer. But they are in search of answer. They have travelled a long way struggling to win the battle. And they aren’t planning to give it up ever.

In the paper I have chosen to investigate the case of Madurai district of Tamil Nadu in terms of the plight of Dalit. I belong to Assam, where the case of dalit atrocities is minimal. Dalit as a word hardly exist in the state. So I chose Tamil Nadu, which is a hub of dalit discrimination, as seen in the reports. And the rationale behind choosing Madurai- the Temple City is to investigate the status of Dalits (Harijan) oppressed – The Children of God[5] in the region which is surrounded by Hindu temples. The datas used are secondary data.

The Caste System- A brief understanding

The root for the emergence of Dalit is the Hindu Caste System.

The caste system in India is the largest surviving social hierarchy. It encompasses a complex ordering of social groups on the basis of ritual purity. Traditional scholarship has described this more than 2,000-year-old system within the context of the four principal varnas, or large caste categories. In order of precedence these are the Brahmins (priests and teachers), the Ksyatriyas (rulers and soldiers), the Vaisyas (merchants and traders), and the Shudras (laborers and artisans). A fifth category falls outside the varna system and consists of those known as “untouchables” or Dalits; they are often assigned tasks too ritually polluting to merit inclusion within the traditional varna system.

Within the four principal castes, there are thousands of sub-castes, also called jatis, endogamous groups that are further divided along occupational, sectarian, regional and linguistic lines. Collectively all of these are sometimes referred to as “caste Hindus” or those falling within the caste system. The Dalits are described as varna-sankara: they are “outside the system”—so inferior to other castes that they are deemed polluting and therefore “untouchable.” Even as outcasts, they themselves are divided into further sub-castes. Although “untouchability” was abolished under Article 17 of the Indian constitution, the practice continues to determine the socio-economic and religious standing of those at the bottom of the caste hierarchy. Whereas the first four varnas are free to choose and change their occupation, Dalits have generally been confined to the occupational structures into which they are born.

A person is considered a member of the caste until death, although the particular ranking of that caste may vary among regions and over time.

About Condition of Dalits in Tamil Nadu with special focus in Madurai District

Brief Profile of Tamil Nadu

Image- christiancouncil.in

image-christiancouncil.in

Tamil Nadu is the eleventh largest state in India by area and the seventh most populous state. It is the fifth largest contributor to India’s GDP and the most urbanised state in India. The state has the highest number (10.56%) of business enterprises in India, compared to the population share of about 6%. It is one of the foremost states in the country in terms of overall development. Tamil Nadu lately emerged as the most literate state in India as announced by HRD Ministry.

The region has been the home of the Tamil civilization since at least 1500 BC, as attested by numerous archeological sites in and around Adichanallur. Its classical language Tamil has been in use in inscriptions and literature for 2500 years.

–      Total No. of districts – 30

–      Total No. of sub districts – 201

–      Total No. of Villages – 16317

–      Total No. of Inhabited Villages – 15400

–      Total No. Of Towns – 832

–      Total No. of Statutory Towns – 721

Sl. No Economic Indicator Tamil Nadu India
1 Area (‘000’ Sq.Kms) (2001 Census) 130 3287
2 Population in Million (2001 Census) 624 1029
3 Density (Population per sq km) 480 313
4 Sex Ratio (Females Per 1000 Males)

(2001 census)

987 933
Urban Population Percentage

(2001 census)

44.04 27.81
5 Schedule Caste as percentage of

total population

19.0 16.2
6 Schedule Tribe as percentage of

total population

1.0 8.2
7 Birth rate 2006 16.2 23.5
8 Death Rate 7.5 7.5
9 Infant Mortality Rate – 2006 37 57
10 Literacy Rate 73.5 64.8

Source: http://www.tn.gov.in/deptst/socioEcoIndicator.pdf

Brief Profile of Madurai

Madurai district is one of the oldest districts of the State and culturally and politically famous one from the earliest period in the history of Tamilnadu. Dindigul and Karur districts in the north, Virudhunagar district in the south, Sivagangai district in the east and the Theni District in the west bind Madurai district. Madurai City is the headquarters of this district. Madurai district is famous for its orchards, forest products and handloom weaving. Once famous for its agricultural products, it retains its agricultural tinct of economy and remains backward industrially.

The city of Madurai and the suburbs abound in temples and shrine of historical as well as mythological importance. Kundram draw a congregation estimated to more than ten lakh. In Tirumangalam taluk the Chellayee Amman Koil festival is of local importance. In Melur taluk, the only festival worthy of mention is the Chellichiamman festival. During the chitrai festival period (April-May) spread over ten days, the Meenakshi temple attracts a large number of devotees from all over the country. Most important festivals celebrated in the district are Pongal, Deepavali, Adi Kirithigai, Kanda Sashti and Chithirai. Amman worship is one of the important features of Dravidian culture. Main languages spoken in the district are Tamil, Gujarati, Kannada, Malayalam, Telugu and Urdu. Religion wise break-up of population of the district is indicated below as per 1991 census. Hindus: 2200349, Muslims: 122994, Christians: 76141, Sikhs: 103, Buddhists: 30, Jains: 385, Other religions and persuasions: 96, Religion not stated: 241. The District lies between 100 25’ and 90 65’ north latitude and 770 48’ and 780 35’ east longitude. The general geographical information of the district is simple and flat as well as hill area. Vaigai River is flowing in the district and is dry during the summer season. Madurai District consists of Seven Taluks, namely 1.Madurai North, 2.Madurai South, 3.Vadipatti, 4.Melur, 5.Thirumangalam, 6.Peraiyur and 7.Usilampatti. The total geographical area of the district is about 10,88,622 sq.km. The Madurai District is divided into 13 Blocks.

General Info of Madurai

Madurai
Total Male Female
Total Population 2578201 1303363 1274838
Institutional Population 29287 15,194 14,093
Houseless population 2087 1175 912
Schedule Caste 323252 162595 160657

Source: Census 2001

Madurai

Schedule caste in numbers:

Table: Comparative analysis of Madurai with Tamil Nadu (General, SC, ST to Total Population)

Comparative analysis of Madurai with Tamil Nadu

State / District Percentage to total population
Total General SC ST
TN 100 80 19 1
Madurai 100 87.2 12.5 0.2
Sex Ratio
TN 987 985 999 980
Madurai 978 977 988 952
Child Sex ration
TN 942 937 952 945
Madurai 926 925 931 922
Literacy Rate
TN 73.5 76.2 63.2 41.5
Madurai 77.8 79.9 63.3 62.9
Work Participation
TN 44.7 43.7 48.1 54.9
Madurai 42.2 41.4 47.7 42.2
Percentage of main workers to total workers
TN 85.2 86.9 79.0 81.3
Madurai 87.2 88.7 78.2 88.6
Percentage of Marginal worker to total worker
TN 14.8 13.1 21.0 18.7
Madurai 12.8 11.3 21.8 11.4
Percentage of Cultivators to total worker
TN 18.4 20.2 10.2 30.3
Madurai 11.9 12.7 7.1 4.0
Percentage of agricultural labourers to total workers
TN 31.0 23.7 58.5 37.8
Madurai 30.4 25.3 61.0 32.8
Percentage of household workers to total workers
TN 5.4 6.2 2.3 2.4
Madurai 3.7 4.0 1.9 2.0
Percentage of other workers to total workers
TN 45.3 49.9 29.0 23.6
Madurai 54.1 58.1 30.1 60.6

Source: Census 2001

Land Holding Status

Even after more than half a century of the Constitutional provisions for their upliftment and several programmes of development, Scheduled Castes continue to be one of the most economically deprived and socially oppressed communities. Almost 80 percent of the SC population lives in rural areas, and most of them are dependent on agriculture, but to a lesser extent as cultivators but more as agricultural labourers. Most of the SC population constitutes the hard-core poor of rural India.

P.Sainath in the article “Dalits in India 200” rightly points out, “When I am taking about Dalits I am taking about people who are very largely poor. Who are the Indian poor? Forty per cent of the Indian poor are landless agricultural laborers, 45 per cent are small and marginal farmers, 60 per cent of them own less than one hectare and of the remaining 15 per cent, 7.5 percent are rural weavers and other kinds of artisans. What does that show you? It shows you that 85 per cent of the poor people’s problem is directly linked to land. That is the issue we will come back to because central to the Dalit question again is land, or rather the lack of land.”[6]

The datas will give a background of the condition of Dalits in terms of land.[7]

Rural Poverty

Table: Schedule Caste in Rural Population & Rural Poverty

SC share in rural population 2001 SC share in rural population

below poverty (1999-00)

Tamil Nadu 23.41 34.6
All India 17.91 27.3
Source: Col 2 – GOI (2005) Statistical Abstract in India 2004

Col 4 – Radhakriashna & Shoran Ray 2005

In the table it is seen that the share of SCs among those who are below poverty line in rural India is higher than their share in population. Overall agricultural development per se, without direct access to land, doesn’t seem to ensure better living for the SC population. Most of the SCs are landless or near landless with less than one acre of land. The degree of landless of the SCs is a quintessential characteristic of their social and economic deprivation in a rural society where land is the defining aspect of social hierarchy.[8]

Table: Percentage of landless and near landless households among SC

SC Landless SC Near Landless
1981-82 1991-91 1981-82 1991-92
Tamil Nadu 19.50 19.21 83.64 86.24
India 12.62 13.34 70.12 64.73
Near landless include household with less than one acre of land

Source: NSS landholding surveys as Thorat (2000)

The above shows the extent of landless and near landless status of the SCs. It is seen from the table that there is  actually rise in the near landlessness of SC households in the period from 1981-82 to 1991-92.

Access to land, even if it is a sub-marginal extent plays a critical role in improving the living status of SCs in rural India. The control over land is also the basis of caste hierarchy (Nancharaiah, 1988). Not only landlessness is at the centre of rural poverty, but ownership and control of land is also the basis of agrarian hierarchy. For Scheduled Castes ownership of land denotes enhanced social status, self-respect, self-confidence and a sense of equality as well (Sankaran 2000). This formed the basis for egalitarian land reforms and provision of access to land to deprived communities like Scheduled Castes. As a part of land reforms, redistribution of ceilings surplus land to rural poor, particularly to Scheduled Castes was conceived as an important programme. Distribution of government wastelands and Bhoodan lands is also based on the principle of providing land to agricultural landless and other poor, especially the Scheduled Castes.

.

Total Number of area distributed Total No. of beneficiaries Schedule Caste
No. of beneficiaries % of 3 in 2 Area distributed

(Acres)

% of 5 in 1

Av area per beneficiary

(Acres)

1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Tamil Nadu 183670 145608 64732 44.46 69246 37.70 1.07
India Total 5403277 5742403 2069179 36.03 1802199 33.35 0.87

Source: GOI 2006

Of the total of 54.03 lakh hectares of ceiling surplus land distributed in different States up to March 31, 2003, only about one-third of the land was distributed among Scheduled Castes and the rest among others. Similarly, of the 57.42 lakh beneficiaries, SCs constitute only about 36%.

Number and Area of Operational Holdings in Madurai District of Tamil Nadu
1995-1996 & 2000-2001
Size Classes Number of Operational Holdings Area Operated (In Hectares)
SC Others SC Others SC Others SC others
1995- 96 1995- 96 2000-01 2000-01 1995- 96 1995-96 2000-01 2000-01
Below 0.5 13559 174590 12621 169729 2959.95 39637.85 2647.58 38814.47
0.5-1.0 4522 60276 3252 59118 3130.55 41881.00 2266.11 41237.43
Marginal 18081 234866 15873 228847 6090.50 81518.85 4913.69 80051.90
1.0-2.0 2162 35112 1726 36885 3040.26 48722.24 2451.43 51337.87
Small 2162 35112 1726 36885 3040.26 48722.24 2451.43 51337.87
2.0-3.0 776 10537 443 11002 1910.60 24926.13 1102.60 26417.47
3.0-4.0 162 3987 126 3832 550.03 13625.84 444.11 13136.47
Semi-medium 938 14524 569 14834 2460.63 38551.96 1546.71 39553.94
4.0-5.0 137 1801 68 1686 612.00 7968.69 305.04 7486.41
5.0-7.5 64 1417 37 1364 387.97 8427.08 214.57 8190.66
7.5-10.0 14 421 13 383 117.02 3563.77 111.67 3267.96
Medium 215 3639 118 3433 1116.99 19959.54 631.28 18945.03
10.0-20.0 9 266 5 259 136.66 3376.37 68.72 3270.69
20 and above 3 39 0 45 112.48 1214.12 0.00 1326.24
Large 12 305 5 304 249.13 4590.49 68.72 4596.93
All Sizes 21408 288446 18291 284303 12957.52 193343.08 9611.83 194485.67

Source: Indiastat.com

Compiled from the statistics released by: Department of Economics and Statistics, Govt. of Tamil Nadu

From the data above, one can see that there has been decrease in tremendous decrease in all sizes of land holdings of the SCs in Madurai District from 1995-96 to 2000-01. The gap increases as we move up in the sizes of land. A comparatively much less decrease in seen in terms of the other category. Only 3 (for SC) in compared 39 (for others) is the number of operational holding (20 & above) in 1995-96 while the number decreases to 0 (for SC) in 2000-01 but increases to 45 for others in the same period.

The data clearly shows the while the marginalization process is all pervasive in the landholding structure of the country, it may not be an exaggeration to say that while most of the SC holdings are marginal in nature, most of the holdings of others are non-marginal size. The case of Madurai clearly shows the asymmetry.

Educational Status

Education develops in us a perspective of looking at life. It helps us build opinions and have points of view on everything in life. The words ‘cultivate’ and ‘civilize’ are almost synonymous to the word ‘educate’. That says it! Education is important as it teaches us the right behavior, the good manners thus making us civilized. It teaches us how to lead our lives. Education is the basis of culture and civilization. It is instrumental in the development of our values and virtues. Education cultivates us into mature individuals, individuals capable of planning for our futures and taking the right decisions. The future of a nation is safe in the hands of educated individuals. Education is important for the economic growth of a nation. It fosters principles of equality and socialism. Education forms a support system for talents to excel in life. It is the backbone of society. But a section of the society of India has been deprived from that provision.

Despite constitutional provisions and safeguards, dalit representation in higher educational institutes and in the workforce remains largely minimal. At the primary education level, though enrolment reflects the diversity in the composition of student population, it does not provide any comparability between the dalits and non-dalits. There are disparities among dalits in all respects – whether in terms of gender or in terms of urban and rural or regional backgrounds. It is quite heartening to note that, even today, dalit men and women are at the bottom of the educational pyramid, despite the repeated claims and counter claims of the government and the political establishment on their efforts to uplift this disadvantaged group. In higher education, there is no doubt, a considerable improvement has been made in terms of promoting diversity in admissions after the introduction of reservation policy. However, this is not adequate in view of the proportion of SC/ST population still outside the fold of higher education. For instance, the percentage of share of scheduled caste students in higher education is only 7.77 per cent and that of scheduled tribes is 2.33 per cent of the total enrolment in 1996-97 [MHRD 1997]. This is negligible in terms of the expected levels of enrolment of dalits in higher educational institutions. Further, there has been a far lesser participation of dalits in prestigious subjects/courses of study which are in demand for high salaried jobs. In 1996-97, a majority of dalit students are enrolled in the arts subjects (56.5 per cent among SCs and 77.7 per cent among STs), followed by science (13.3 per cent among SCs and 8.7 per cent among STs) and commerce (13.2 per cent among SCs and 9.4 per cent among STs) at the undergraduate level. The enrolments at the postgraduate level also show similar signs. The proportion of dalits in the professional stream is very low – 7.9 per cent among SCs and 2.1 per cent among STs are in professional courses like engineering and medicine taken together. Therefore, the share of dalits in those courses that are market-friendly is far from satisfactory. The

emerging areas of software, bio-technology, bio-informatics, etc, are almost beyond the reach of the dalits. This is where one has to focus more when the demands for diversity in admissions are made.[9]

Percentage of Literacy Rates Among Scheduled
Castes (SC) in India
(1961,1971,1981,1991 and 2001)
Years General Category Scheduled Castes
Male Female Total Male Female Total
1961 40.40 15.35 28.30 16.96 3.29 10.27
1971 45.96 21.91 34.45 22.36 6.44 14.67
1981 56.38 29.76 43.57 31.12 10.93 21.38
1991 64.13 39.29 52.21 49.91 23.76 37.41
2001 75.30 53.70 64.80 66.64 41.90 54.69

India Stat

Source: Department of Secondary & Higher Education, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India.

About 50 % of the SC category is literate by 2001 while the data stands at 66.64 in the general category. The above data shows a positive trend for the SCs esp. the rise in female category from 3.29 in 1961 to 41.90 in 2001.

Literacy Trends for Scheduled Castes (SC) in India
(1961, 1971, 1981 and 1991)
(Figures in Percent)
Year Total Scheduled Castes
Male Female Total Male Female Total
1961 34.44 12.95 24.02 16.96 3.29 10.27
1971 39.45 18.72 29.46 22.36 6.44 14.67
1981 46.90 29.85 43.67 31.12 10.93 21.38
1991 64.13 39.29 52.21 49.91 23.76 37.41

Source: National Commission for SCs & STs

State-wise Literacy of Scheduled Castes (SCs) as Against National Average in India
(Census 2001)
States Literacy Rate of
Total Population
(including SCs & STs)
Literacy
Rate of SCs
Tamil Nadu 73.5 63.2
India 64.8 54.7

Source: National Commission for SCs & STs

Literacy Rate
Total General SC
TN 73.5 76.2 63.2
Madurai 77.8 79.9 63.3

Source: Census 2001

From the data above we can generalize that the literacy rate has improved over years in SC category. But again the quality of education differs. Going back to the article mentioned above one can’t just rely on this data and make a comment on the status of dalit education.

Atrocities

The section will cover the Nature & Magnitude of atrocities experienced & the response of State & Civil Society Organisation

Thevars [caste Hindus] treat Sikkaliars [Dalits] as slaves so they can utilize them as they wish. They exploit them sexually and make them dig graveyards for high-caste people’s burials. They have to take the death message to Thevars. These are all unpaid services.

— Manibharati, social activist, Madurai district, Tamil Nadu[10]

Despite myriad policies and schemes aimed at ameliorating their lot, dalits still suffer from not only poverty but from discrimination and also systemic violence. Given the high prevalence of atrocities (as registered under the SC/ST (Prevention of) Atrocities Act;2 hereafter SC/ST Act) violence on dalits ought to be taken as a unique factor affecting their mobility. In fact, more than the number of cases, their low conviction- rate is an area of concern. By atrocities one must assume not only physical violence but also the social setting that encourages and condones violence on the community. Though scholars and social reformers emphasised from time to time that there is no religious sanction for untouchability, there is a widespread notion in society that dalits are born inferior and any attempt by them to move away from their place will lead to social disharmony. It deserves to be noted that atrocities are exclusively a rural phenomenon; although even a couple of decades ago atrocities in urban areas were reported [Joshi 1982]. [11]

On the caste related atrocities, Anand teltumbde, in Khairlanji – A strange & bitter crop, has written “Contrary to the image of India being a non violent society, violence has always been ingrained in the Hindu societal structure; where inequality is ideolized and rigidified with the divine sanction. Any transgression of this social code is supposed to invite the wrath of divine forces. It is not for nothing that the Hindu God personify violence. In no other religion are Gods depicted bearing deadly weaponds and indulging in macabre violence….those who challenge this framework are reminded of weapon wielding gods of the violent end they face…It is this feature of the system that has seemingly governed Indian History for over two millennia. This systematic character is no longer confined to hindu society alone. Through its ideological hegemony it pervades almost the whole of India Society.”

Atrocities faced by Dalits are on a rise all over India. An atrocity is a concentrated expression of caste consciousness. The Sc & ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, enacted in 1989, is designed to prevent abuses and punish those responsible, establish special courts for trial and such offences and provide victim relief and rehabilitation. The offenses include forcing members of a scheduled caste or scheduled tribe to drink or eat any inedible or obnoxious substance; dumping excreta, waste matter, carcasses or any other obnoxious substance in their premises or neighborhood; forcibly removing their clothes and parading them naked or with painted face or body; interfering with their rights to land; compelling a member of a scheduled caste or scheduled tribe into forms of forced or bonded labor; corrupting or fouling the water of any spring, reservoir or any other source ordinarily used by scheduled castes or scheduled tribes; denying right of passage to a place of public resort; and using a position of dominance to exploit a scheduled caste or scheduled tribe woman sexually.

The potential of the law to bring about social change has been hampered by police corruption and caste bias, with the result that many allegations are not entered in police books. Ignorance of procedures and a lack of knowledge of the act have also affected its implementation. Even when cases are registered, the absence of special courts to try them can delay prosecutions for up to three to four years. Some state governments dominated by higher castes have even attempted to repeal the legislation altogether.

Between 1994 and 1996, a total of 98,349 cases were registered with the police nationwide as crimes and atrocities against scheduled castes. Of these, 38,483 were registered under the Atrocities Act for the sorts of offenses enumerated above. A further 1,660 were for murder, 2,814 for rape, and 13,671 for hurt.15 Given that Dalits are both reluctant and unable (for lack of police cooperation) to report crimes against themselves, the actual number of abuses is presumably much higher. The National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes has reported that these cases typically fall into one of three categories: cases relating to the practice of “untouchability” and attempts to defy the social order; cases relating to land disputes and demands for minimum wages; and cases of atrocities by police and forest officials.

Crime Head Average crime incidence per yer
1981-1990 1991-2000 2001-2005
Murder 534.9 545.7 681.2
Rape 714.1 928.8 1213.0
Kinapping & Abduction 251 29.2.4
Arson 866.0 423.6 260.2
Hurt 1477.8 2978.6 4135.6
PCR Act 1339.7 588.0
Prevention of Atrocities

Act

15182.8 8585.4 9863.8
Others 11896.1 13462. 9 12099.4
All crimes 21877.8 28041.0 29254.8

Data for 1981-90 from Anand Teltumbde Anti imperialism & Annihilation of Castes, 271. Data From 1990-2000 and 2001-2005 from National Crime Records Bureau, http:ncrb.nic.in/crime2005/cii-2205/table7.1htm

The above table provides the average incidence of atrocities against dalits (all India) against SCs and STs during three decades shows a consistent and substancial rise under various crime heads except for arson, those under PCR Act and others. while there is a significant rise in all major heads of crime, there is a drastic decrease in crimes registered under the SC/ ST (Prevention of Atrocities Act from the yearly average of 15182.8 during 1981-90 to almost half 8585 during 1991-2000, thereafter it registers a slight increase to 9863.8 during 2001-05. Since this act is considered string, the police shows a general reluctance to register a crime under. The 2005 annual report of National Crime Records Bureau says: ‘the cases reported under SC/ ST PoA Act have shown a decline of 21.1 percent over the average of the last five years (2000-04) and 2.8 % over the previous year. [12]

Some of the datas revealing caste atrocities in India is listed below. Datas of Tamil Nadu and Madurai district has also been listed below[13]:

Number of Crimes Against Scheduled Castes in India
(1991 to 2000)
Year Crimes against Scheduled
Castes
Percentage change over the
previous year
Violent (IPC) Others (IPC) SLL Total Violent (IPC) Others (IPC) SLL Total
1991 1938 13454 2944 18336
1992 2430 19592 2900 24922 25.4 45.6 -1.5 35.9
1993 2222 20220 2531 24973 -8.6 3.2 -12.7 0.2
1994 2659 14580 16669 33908 19.7 -27.8 558.6 35.8
1995 2508 15035 15453 32996 6.7 3.1 -7.3 -2.7
1996 2540 17863 11037 31440 1.3 18.8 -28.6 -4.7
1997 2402 16256 9286 27944 -5.4 -9.0 -15.9 -11.1
1998 2237 15234 8167 25638 -6.9 -6.3 -12.1 -8.3
1999 2216 14898 7979 25093 -0.9 -2.2 -2.3 -2.1
2000 2313 15084 8058 25455 4.4 1.2 1.0 1.4

Note :

1. Violent crime includes Murder, Rape, Kidnapping and Abduction,
Dacoity, Robbery and Arson.
2. ‘Others’ include Hurt Cases.
3. Cases under SLL upto 1993 are for PCR Act only.
Source : Crime in India 2000, National Crime Records Bureau, Ministry of
Home Affairs, Govt. of India & Past Volumes.

State-wise Number of Cases Registered (CR), Persons Arrested (PA), Persons
Chargesheeted (PC), Total Persons Tried (PT), Persons Convicted (PV)
and Persons Acquitted (PQ) under Hurt of Scheduled Castes ( SC) (In Conjunction with SC/ST (P) of Atrocities Act) and PCR Act in India
(2005)
State/Ut Hurt PCR Act
CR PA PC PT PV PQ CR PA PC PT PV PQ
Tamil Nadu 142 312 361 546 109 437 12 10 12 35 0 35
India 3847 7738 7328 6896 1907 4989 291 584 575 1013 223 790

State-wise Number of Cases Registered, Charge Sheeted in the Courts and
Cases Disposed off by Courts Under the Scheduled Castes
and the Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities)
in India Act, 1989
(1999)
State/UTs Number of Cases Registered by Police Including Brought Forward Number of Cases Charge Sheeted in the Courts Including Brought Forward Percentage of Number of Cases Registered by Police Number of Cases Disposed off  by the Courts Including Brought Forward
Tamil Nadu 1605 700 43.61 554
India 34799 19587 56.29 12864

Note : The Schedule Caste and the Schedule Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities)
Act, 1989 Does not Extend in State of Jammu & Kashmir.
Source : Lok Sabha Unstarred Question No.595, dated 20.2.2003.

State-wise Number of Cases Ending Conviction under
Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention
of Atrocities Act, 1989) in India
(2004 to 2006)
States/UTs 2004 2005 2006
Tamil Nadu 62 331 171
India 3259 7110 6782

Note : The scheduled castes and the scheduled tribes
(prevention of atrocities) Act. 1989 does not
extend in the state of Jammu & Kashmir.
Compiled from the statistics released by : Lok Sabha Unstarred Question No. 3600, dated on 17.04.2008.

State-wise Number of Cases Registered under Scheduled Castes and
Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 in India
(1998 to 2006)
States/UTs 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006
Tamil Nadu 897 1011 996 828 917 974 891 1207 931
India 27561 26285 30315 30022 27894 22603 23629 31387 32407

Abbr. : NA : Not Available.
Note : The Scheduled castes and scheduled tribes (Prevention of atrocities)
act. 1989 does not extend to the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Source : Lok Sabha Unstarred Question No. 3110, dated 22.03.2002 &
Lok Sabha Unstarred Question No. 1801, dated 7.03.2006., &
Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Govt. of India. &
Rajya Sabha Unstarred Question No. 4123, dated on 05.05.2008.

State-wise Number of Cases Acquital under Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes
(Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989
(During 1998 to 2000)
States/UTs 1998 1999 2000
Tamil Nadu 173 517 165
India 29334 11319 9006
District-wise Incidence of Crimes Committed
Against Scheduled Castes in Tamil Nadu
(2001)
District Murder Rape Kid. Dacoity Robbery Arson
SCs SCs SCs SCs SCs SCs
Madurai Rural 2 2 0 0 0 3
Madurai Urban 0 0 0 1 0 0
Tamil Nadu 38 27 16 5 1 18

District-wise Incidence of Crimes Committed Against Scheduled
Castes/Scheduled Tribes in Tamil Nadu – Part II
Districts Hurt Protection of Civil Rights Act SC/ST (P) of Atrocities Act Other Crimes Committed Against Total Crimes Committed Against
SCs SCs SCs SCs SCs
Madurai Rural 9 0 12 36 62
Madurai Urban 0 0 11 11 22
Tamil Nadu 251 79 685 993 2097

Source : Crime in India 2001, National Crime Records Bureau, Ministry of
Home Affairs, Govt. of India.

Some cases of atrocities in Madurai district and Tamil Nadu & the response of the state – Excerpts from books and articles

Dalits In Dravidian Land, S. Vishawanathan

“The first Dalit graduate from a village in Madurai district walked home at the end of the term passing through the upper-caste area of his village wearing shoes and trousers. Perceiving this to be a challenge to their authority, Backward Caste youths set upon him and beat him to death” (Untouchable Citizens, page 185). Two young people, both students at Annamalai University, fell in love and married. The young man was a Dalit. The young woman’s family, belonging to the Vanniar caste, above Dalits in the caste hierarchy, objected to the marriage and the couple was found dead under suspicious circumstances (Dalits in Dravidian Land). In July 1998, soon after K.R. Narayanan took over as President, a group of Dalit youths attempted to celebrate the fact of a Dalit becoming the First Citizen of the country. Caste Hindus objected and a clash followed, finally resulting in twenty Dalit huts being torched and over a hundred dwellings of Dalits being damaged (Dalits in Dravidian Land, page 99). On Independence day 2003, the Dalit panchayat president of a village in one of the southern districts of Tamil Nadu was “assaulted and humiliated in public because he `dared’ to unfurl the national flag at the panchayat’s official function (Dalits in Dravidian Land, page 279).

Broken People: Caste violence against India’s untouchables; Human Rights Watch, 1999, Books for change

In the southern districts of Tamil Nadu, clashes between Pallars (a community of Dalits) and Thevars (a marginally higher-caste non-Dalit community) have plagued rural areas since 1995. New wealth among the Pallars, who have sent male family members to work in Gulf states and elsewhere abroad, has triggered a backlash from the Thevars as the Pallars have increasingly been able to buy and farm their own lands or look elsewhere for employment. At the same time, a growing Dalit political movement has provided the Pallars with a platform for resisting the still-prevalent norms of “untouchability.” While some Dalits have joined militant groups in Tamil Nadu, such groups have generally engaged in public protests and other political activities rather than armed resistance. The Thevars have responded by assaulting, raping, and murdering Dalits to preserve the status quo.

Local police, drawn predominantly from the Thevar community, have conducted raids on Dalit villages, ostensibly to search for militant activists. During the raids they have assaulted residents, particularly women, and detained Dalits under preventive detention laws. With the tolerance or connivance of local officials, police have also forcibly displaced thousands of Dalit villagers. During one such raid, Guruswamy Guruammal, a pregnant, twenty-six-year-old Dalit agricultural laborer, was stripped, brutally beaten, and dragged through the streets naked before being thrown in jail. She told Human Rights Watch, “I begged the police officers at the jail to help me. I even told them I was pregnant. They mocked me for [having made] bold statements to the police the day before. I spent twenty-five days in jail. I miscarried my baby after ten days. Nothing has happened to the officers who did this to me.”

Excessive use of force by the police is not limited to rural areas. Police abuse against the urban poor, slum dwellers, Dalits, and other minorities has included arbitrary detention, torture, extrajudicial executions and forced evictions. Although the acute social discrimination characteristic of rural areas is less pronounced in cities, Dalits in urban areas, who make up the majority of bonded laborers and street cleaners, do not escape it altogether. Many live in segregated colonies which have been targets of police raids. This report documents a particularly egregious incident in a Dalit colony in Bombay in July 1997, when police opened fire without warning on a crowd of Dalits protesting the desecration of a statue of Dalit cultural and political hero Dr. B. R. Ambedkar. The firing killed ten and injured twenty-six.

Police and upper-caste militias, operating at the behest of powerful political leaders in the state, have also punished Dalit voters. In February 1998, police raided a Dalit village in Tamil Nadu that had boycotted the national parliamentary elections. Women were kicked and beaten, their clothing was torn, and police forced sticks and iron pipes into their mouths. Kerosene was poured into stored food grains and grocery items and police reportedly urinated in cooking vessels. In Bihar, political candidates ensure their majority vote with the help of senas, whose members kill if necessary. The Ranvir Sena was responsible for killing more than fifty people during Bihar’s 1995 state election campaign. The sena was again used to intimidate voters in Ara district, Bihar, during the February 1998 national parliamentary elections.

Melavalavu Murder case

Dalits who have contested political office in village councils and municipalities through seats that have been constitutionally “reserved” for them have been threatened with physical abuse and even death in order to get them to withdraw from the campaign. The Melavalavu murders of 1997, which created a lot of sensation in the State and which both Viswanathan and Gorringe record was also a clear case of Dalit progress inviting retaliation by higher castes. The presidentship of the panchayat of Melavalavu village, close to Madurai, was reserved for Dalits. Members of the Thevar caste, a backward caste but above the Dalits, tried their best to prevent it by disrupting the election process. Finally, under police protection, the election was conducted and Murugesan, a Dalit, was elected president. Members of the higher caste made it difficult for him to operate from the panchayat office. Murugesan went to Madurai to make a representation to the District Collector. On his way back, a mob stopped the bus he was travelling in, dragged him out and murdered him and six of his followers in June 1997. (One account says that the murder was committed by some who were travelling with Murugesan.) As told to Human Rights Watch by an eyewitness, the leader of the attack “instructed the Thevars [caste Hindus] to kill all the Pariahs [Dalits]… They pulled all six out of the bus and stabbed them on the road… Five Thevars joined together, put Murugesan [the Dalit president] on the ground outside the bus, and chopped off his head, then threw it in a well half a kilometer away… Some grabbed his hands, others grabbed his head, and one cut his head… They deliberately took the head and poured the blood on other dead bodies.”13 As of February 1999, the accused—who had been voted out of their once-secure elected positions—had not been prosecuted. Those arrested were out on bail, while the person identified as the ringleader of the attack was still at large.

The potential of the law to bring about social change has been hampered by police corruption and caste bias, with the result that many allegations are not entered in police books. Ignorance of procedures and a lack of knowledge of the act have also affected its implementation. Even when cases are registered, the absence of special courts to try them can delay prosecutions for up to three to four years. Some state governments dominated by higher castes have even attempted to repeal the legislation altogether.

News articles

Dalits segregated, walled off in Madurai village

Shambhavi Rai / CNN-IBN(Published on Sun, May 04, 2008 at 11:26, Updated on Sun, May 04, 2008 at 17:11 in India section)

Madurai: It’s crime of another kind in a village in Madurai in Tamil Nadu – one of caste divide. There’s even a wall that separates the upper caste from the Dalits in the village.

It’s a reality that people of Uthapuram village in Madurai have been waking up to since 1989. The 600 m long 10 m high brick wall that separates the Dalit colonies in the village from the colonies of the Pillaimars or the upper castes. Dalits have been denied access to many common resources in the village.  Villager Muniappan says, “Until last April, the wall was even electrified-we came to know after a bird died of electrocution-but after government intervention the wires were removed.” But the wall of separation still exists. The Dalits have separate community halls, crematoriums and water taps and are not allowed to take part in temple functions.  Even getting to the bus stop means waking half a kilometre extra around the wall.  Ganesan, another villager says, “This wall has been around since 1989. We have no access to their place because we are born to a lower caste. All the dirt from their village comes in to our water bodies spreading diseases. We will fight if action is not taken immediately.”

The upper castes however deny they practice untouchability.  “There is no untouchability in this village. This wall has been built only on our private land,” says one villager.

Meanwhile, the Disctrict Collector (Madurai), S S Jawahar said that the administration is trying to put an end to this practice. “They were living in harmony all this while, but now there is a dispute. The administration is keen on finding an amicable solution; if that doesn’t work out then we would proceed in accordance with the law,” Jawahar said. But after all these years of existence, the wall might not stand firm after all. Local Communists are threatening to break the wall if authorities don’t resolve the issue.
Study on Dalit employees reveals discrimination

(Date:18/02/2009 URL: http://www.thehindu.com/2009/02/18/stories/2009021858990300.htm)

Mohamed Imranullah S.

MADURAI: A majority of Dalit Government employees, including sweepers, teachers and even doctors, are facing discrimination at workplace, according to a recent study conducted by Evidence, a human rights organisation here.

The study claimed that they were “humiliated, intimidated, isolated or subjected to other kinds of emotional torture” by their colleagues and higher officials. The discrimination at workplace also affected their familial life.

A. Kathir, Director of Evidence, said that the project was undertaken by collecting data from 77 government servants of whom five were women. Only those who agreed to affix their signatures in the questionnaires were included in the study.

Employees of education, highways, revenue, health and other departments in Cuddalore, Villupuram, Vellore, Salem, Dharmapuri, Pudukkotai, Tiruchi, Thanjavur, Nagapattinam, Madurai, Theni, Dindigul, Sivaganga and Tirunelveli were interviewed.

A 33-year-old orthopaedician in a Government Hospital at Cuddalore had told that he was asked to treat only Dalit patients. Fellow doctors and other staff members also commented before him that beneficiaries of reservation were always incompetent.

Similarly, a 48-year-old schoolteacher from Vellore said that he was ill-treated by the headmaster who often made fun of him in the presence of other teachers. He claimed that many caste Hindu students did not respect him.

Of the 77 interviewees, 75 agreed that they were subjected to caste discrimination. Thirty eight per cent said that they were victimised in service-related issues, while 30 per cent said that they were humiliated for their physical appearance.

Plaints with rights panel

Forty seven government employees had lodged complaints with their higher officials or the National/State Human Rights Commission. But only four of them managed to get a solution to problems faced by them. Thirteen had approached courts.

Thirty Dalits stated that trade unions, particularly those meant for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, had supported them in seeking justice. Further, out of the five women, three said they were subjected to gender discrimination.

The only consoling factor the study found was that 49 interviewees did not face caste discrimination in their localities as against 34 people who claimed that they were discriminated both at their workplace and surroundings.
Panchayat chiefs admit to caste bias in Dindigul district

(Date:10/02/2008 URL: http://www.thehindu.com/2008/02/10/stories/2008021059230600.htm)

S. Vijay Kumar

MADURAI: Presidents of 35 of the 65 reserved panchayats in Dindigul district have admitted to caste bias in their villages.

Signing affidavits stamped with the official seal, the panchayat chiefs have confirmed various forms of discrimination, including the double-tumbler system, denial of entry into temples and forced scavenging work.

‘Evidence,’ a Madurai-based human rights organisation, that conducted a study in the villages in the last 45 days, has sent its findings to the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, the National Human Rights Commission and the State Chief Secretary, seeking their intervention to render justice to the “affected” Dalits and declare the villages “atrocities-hit”.

After exposing caste discrimination in six districts, including Madurai, Theni and Sivaganga, fact-finding teams of ‘Evidence’ met presidents of the reserved panchayats in Dindigul and obtained their feedback on printed questionnaires.

In some villages, Dalits were forced to convey death messages and do “menial” services on burial ground. While restrictions in using public toilet, water bodies and common pathway were noticed in some villages, complaints of punishment at ‘kattapanchayats’ were reported from a few others.

Threat from officials

Listing specific areas where caste discrimination was prevalent, ‘Evidence’ executive Director A. Kathir said though the organisation had brought to light bias in many districts, there was hardly any change at the grassroots level. Village chiefs who admitted to discrimination in writing were threatened by officials to withdraw their statements.

Right to pray (Vol:26 Iss:15 URL: http://www.flonnet.com/fl2615/stories/20090731261504200.htm)

THE discriminatory practices against Dalits are in violation of the Constitution and various laws of the land. For instance, the Tamil Nadu Temple Entry Authorisation Act, 1947, speaks of the “rights of all classes of Hindus to enter and offer worship in temples”.

“Notwithstanding any law, custom or usage to the contrary, every Hindu irrespective of the caste or sect to which he belongs shall be entitled to enter any Hindu temple and offer worship therein in the same manner and to the same extent as Hindus in general or any section of Hindus; and no Hindu shall, by reason only of such entry or worship whether before or after the commencement of this Act, be deemed to have committed any actionable wrong or offence or be sued or prosecuted therefor,” it says.

These rights include the “right to bathe in or use the waters of, any sacred tank, well, spring or water-course appurtenant to the temple, whether situated within or outside the precincts hereof” and the “right of passage over any sacred place, including a hill or hillock or a road, street or pathway, which is requisite for obtaining access to the temple”.

The Act makes it clear that whoever “(i) prevents a Hindu from exercising any right conferred by this Act; or (ii) molests or obstructs a Hindu in the exercise of any such right shall be punishable, in the case of first offence, with fine which may extend to one hundred rupees, and in the second case of second or subsequent offence, with imprisonment which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to five hundred rupees, or with both.”

The Tamil Nadu Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act, 1959, also says that there should be no discrimination in the distribution of any prasadam or theertham in any religious institution on the grounds of caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.

The Temple Entry Authorisation and Indemnity Act, 1939, introduced by the Rajaji government also aimed at removing all restrictions on Dalits to enter Hindu temples.

The Madras High Court, in its order dated June 17, 2005, in the case relating to the denial of right to Dalits to pull the Swarnamoortheeswarar temple car at Kandadevi village in Sivaganga district, observed thus: “…Oppression, atrocities and humiliation of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes is a shameful chapter in our country’s history. For thousands of years the S.Cs and S.Ts in our country have been humiliated, insulted and looked down upon. In fact, even today the so-called upper castes and even Other Backward Classes often look down and insult the members of the S.Cs and S.Ts. This can no longer be tolerated in this modern age of democracy. In the modern age, equality is one of the basic features which characterises this era. Today no people and no community will tolerate being treated as inferior and will oppose such ill-treatment, and will be justified in doing so.”

In the case relating to the closure of Draupadi Amman temple at Kandampatti village in Salem district, the High Court on August 28, 2008, directed the Revenue and HR & CE Departments and the police officials to reopen the shrine within four weeks and ensure adequate protection to Dalits who enter the temple and offer worship.

Expressing anguish at the animosity of caste Hindus and the increasing number of disputes between caste Hindus and Dalits over entry into temples and participation in temple festivals, the court’s Madurai Bench said in an order, in another case, on August 17, 2008, that the court was pained to record that situations like the present one were continuing even in the 21st century. “Even at the time of worshipping God, groups are divided on caste lines. The dominant community in the village is not willing to accommodate the Dalit brethren even at the altar of the god,” the court observed.

S. Dorairaj

Two Dalits killed over temple worship

March 7th, 2009 – 9:27 pm ICT by IANS Chennai,

In separate incidents, two Dalits were killed following a dispute over worshipping in a temple in Tamil Nadu, the police said Saturday. The victims were identified as K. Paramasivan, 27, and E. Easwaran, 55. The killings took place at Sankarankoil in Tirunelveli district.

Paramasivan was attacked Friday night when he was on his way to his village. Easwaran was attacked while riding a two-wheeler with a friend.

In both cases, the dispute apparently was over worshipping in a temple belonging to the largely pastoral Konar community.

State responses – as given by human right watch

The effectiveness of the role??

From the above cited cases, one can find that the response of state administrations to incidents of caste violence amounts to failure to ensure equal protection under the law and exposes a pattern of complicity and collusion on behalf of police and local official. Despite ambitious calls for action by central and state government in the aftermath publicity of massacres and police raids, the Indian authorities have shown little commitment to resolving the root causes of the caste conflict. In many states where massacres and large scale police attacks on Dalits in rural and urban settings continue to take place, state administration should act swiftly and without bias to bring offending state and private actors to justice. To dismiss violence aas purely a law and order concern or to depict it as inevitable consequence of ancient fued between caste hindus and dalits or between haves and haves not is misleading and irresponsible. Such a characterization suggests that state has no protective role to play or that state itself has not contributed to the abuse.

Tamil Nadu Government-Appointed Commissions

State governments in India share a common history of appointing judicial commissions of inquiry to quell public outcries against police excesses during large-scale communal and caste clashes. Although these commissions do serve a political function, their findings, if and when released to the public, are frequently in favor of the state. The Tamil Nadu experience is no exception to this rule.

As of December 1998 the state was one of five to have established a state human rights commission (SHRC). The commission’s investigations into human rights abuses by the police and caste Hindus are, however, blocked if the state first appoints its own judicial commission of inquiry. Like the National Human Rights Commission, state human rights commissions are denied jurisdiction over an investigation if the matter is pending before “any commission duly constituted under any law for the time-being [sic] in force.”129 The state government of Tamil Nadu has exploited this provision by appointing its own commissions of inquiry before state human rights commission investigations get underway. States have little control over the investigations of statutory (human rights) commissions. Conversely, government-appointed commissions almost invariably find in favor of the state and the police. Those findings that go against the state are rarely implemented or made public.

A Tamil Nadu government official explained that judicial commissions’ findings “do not become public unless the government tables it with the legislature; findings that are against the state are often not tabled… By appointing its own commissions, the state government does not permit the State Human Rights Commission to do the investigation. It literally ties its hands.”130 The appointment of judicial commissions has become almost routine following caste clashes. The Justice Mohan Commission, for example, was appointed by the state government in July 1997 to look into recurring caste clashes and suggest measures to prevent them, but only “after the state government knew that the State Human Rights Commission was on the job.”131 The Justice Mohan Commission submitted its report in September 1998. In October 1998, Chief Minister Karunanidhi announced that not all the recommendations could be accepted.

In another large-scale clash in Coimbatore in November 1997, Muslims shops and houses were burned down by Hindus, reportedly with support from the police. Before the SHRC could take up the investigation, the state appointed the Justice Gokulakrishnan Commission, and “[a]gain their hands were tied.” During the southern district clashes of April to December 1997, police opened fire in two villages and attacked Dalit women in a third. Three commissions headed by three district judges were immediately appointed.133 The director of People’s Watch contends that “it has been the history of Dalit people that every commission of inquiry has gone against their interests.” Another activist added that “the retired judges who are appointed always toe the line of the government.”

Given proper resources, state human rights commissions stand to play an important role in the protection of human rights. Because their investigations enjoy greater independence from the state than judicial commission investigations, the statutes under which they are formed need to be amended to ensure that judicial commissions cannot be appointed as a means of undermining their powers. Moreover, the mandates of human rights commissions themselves need to be strengthened to ensure that their recommendations are binding and their findings are made public.

Role of civil society (?)

Anand Teltumbde in his book, Khairlanji – A strange and bitter crop severly criticizes the civil society. He writes “It is a popular myth that there exists a significant progressive section of non dalit – a civil society that is opposed to caste. He gives a comparative analysis of the role of civil society in identifying issues and being selective about it. He argues that a large section of people who bear the progressive mantle on social issue such as communalism, gender, discrimination, developmental & environmental issues and the general exploitation of labour & peasantry, runs off when it comes to issues related to caste. He specially criticized the role of as the popular protest related to Khairlanji issue were apolitical. He puts an strong question after citing various example. The question is “Why does civil society turn uncivil towards dalit?”

Suggestion for transforming India into an egalitarian India

ü    The division of Indian society on the basis of caste system is one of the main factors contributing to a never ending problem of inequality in India. A system, which is thousand years old, with rigid norms and which have been safeguarded the majority of the population, seems to be a herculean task. But then the Dalit movement started. The division on caste lines is so ingrained that it took another century of years for the people to realise and question the system. There are many pros and cons of the dalit movement and the country being almost converted into a liberal model formulates subtle policies to hide the biggest reality of the country. So the questions which ares first are Can caste be eliminated? Or should we just try to transform it? If caste is eliminated, then will the country’s major religion Hindu will survive? Will India survive? But one thing is for sure, India can’t be egalitarian unless caste is eliminated. So the first answer would be, on a very optimistic note, is to abolish caste system completely. To abolish caste system following strategies can be adopted:

  • In order to uproot caste system Dalits should be able to question the Brahminical power along with the legitimacy of the Shastras.
  • For this Dalits should be empowered and the focus should be on uniting the divided Dalits and equipping them with legal and political support.
  • To uproot caste system, one needs to locate the struggle in not just the socio-eco-political domain, but also in the psycho-cultural and the educational (“Educate, Agitate, Organise” as said by Dr. Ambedkar ) domain.
  • An organic leadership, that can reflect the plights of all the oppressed of the caste system, not only the interest of its own community ,will be very important
  • Constitutional provisions have guaranteed safeguards to protect and promote the interests of the SCs. Need to use it as the primary tool against the atrocities and injustice perpetuated based on caste.
  • Advocacy at all levels through media, social movements, mobilization of masses   etc.
  • Mobilization through Conscientisation ‘or consciousness raising’
  • Promote inter-caste marriage as endogamy is one of the major reasons why caste has perpetuated for thousands of years.
  • Caste is a notion, it is a state of the mind. The destruction of Caste does not therefore mean the destruction of a physical barrier. It means a notional change.

ü   Other suggestion can be in the line of better education On the whole, the issues that a dalit confront today have more to do with living in a civil society with honour and dignity. The attitudes, perception, and treatment that the dalits confront in their everyday life require a lot more preparation on the part of the state and the educational institutions. It is just not sufficient to wash off responsibility after making policies and programmes for upliftment of the disadvantaged sections, but it necessitates the education of those not disadvantaged and at the other end of the fence. as the one at Bhopal Increasing incidents of hostility would only put more stumbling blocks on the path to this realisation. Therefore, focus should be more on respect for diversity in order to facilitate a better tomorrow and an effective democracy.

ü   One shortcoming of the country’s approach towards welfare of dalits is that atrocities are mostly taken as a law and order problem, divorcing them from the larger strategy for social justice. Atrocities do represent a significant hindrance to socioeconomic mobility of the community. Policy-makers should take into account that ending violence on dalits is a basic requirement for success of the redistributive policies, rather than assuming that those policies would result in termination of violence/discrimination. It is time policy-makers realised that atrocities are society’s response to dalit mobility and factored it in the welfare policies, whatever they might be.

Miles to go before I sleep…but the walk is not to eternity. The walk is to make an egalitarian society. The walk is to achieve equality.

Mamoni Doley MA-SW 2nd year

References:

ü Anand Teltumbde, 2008, Khairlanji – A strange & bitter crop, Navayan publishing

ü Broken People – Caste Violence against India’s Untouchables, Human Right Watch, 1999

ü S. Srinivasa Rao, Dalits in education and workforce, Economic and Political Weekly July 20, 2002

ü Devashis Chakraborty, D Shyam Babu, Manashi Chakravorty What the District Level Data Say on Society-State Complicity EPW June 17 2006

ü S. Vishwanathan’s articles

ü Census 2001

ü National Crime Record Bureau website

ü Tamil Nadu Government website

ü Wikipedia

ü www.indiastat.com

ü Frontline Magazine, Online edition archives (the articles are attached along with the link in the write-up)

ü Articles from Hindu online archives (the articles are attached along with the link in the write-up)

ü Articles from CNN-IBN, IANS

ü http://www.asiasociety.org/policy-politics/human-rights/dalits-india-2000?page=0,0 P. Sainath, Dalits In India 2000

ü Scheduled Castes and Land Deprivation D. Narasimha Reddy*   http://www.boell-india.org/download_en/DNR_Scheduled_Castes_and_Land_Deprivation.pdf

ü Study on Dalit employees reveals discrimination (Date:18/02/2009 URL: http://www.thehindu.com/2009/02/18/stories/2009021858990300.htm)

ü Panchayat chiefs admit to caste bias in Dindigul district  (Date:10/02/2008 URL: http://www.thehindu.com/2008/02/10/stories/2008021059230600.htm)

ü Right to pray (Vol:26 Iss:15 URL: http://www.flonnet.com/fl2615/stories/20090731261504200.htm)


[1] The term is used in the constitution and various laws

[2] Broken People – Caste Violence against India’s Untouchables, Human Right Watch, 1999

[3] http://www.asiasociety.org/policy-politics/human-rights/dalits-india-2000?page=0,0

[4] Broken People – Caste Violence against India’s Untouchables, Human Right Watch, 1999

[5] Another term used for Dalits by M.K Gandhi

[6] http://www.asiasociety.org/policy-politics/human-rights/dalits-india-2000?page=0,0

[7] As the focus is on Tamil Nadu in general & Madurai in particular, most of the datas will be of that region

[8] Scheduled Castes and Land Deprivation D. Narasimha Reddy*

http://www.boell-india.org/download_en/DNR_Scheduled_Castes_and_Land_Deprivation.pdf

[9] Dalits in education and workforce, S. Srinivasa Rao, EPW July 20, 2002

[10] Broken People: Caste violence against India’s untouchables; Human Rights Watch interview, Madurai district, Tamil Nadu, February 17, 1998

[11] EPW June 17 2006 What the District Level Data Say on Society-State Complicity Devashis Chakraborty, D Shyam Babu, Manashi Chakravorty

[12] Anand Teltumbde, 2008, Khairlanji – A strange & bitter crop, Navayan publishing

[13] A very limited amount of data was found in context to district

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