Skip to main content

Social boycott, forced migration of Gujarat's rural Dalits continues

By Rajiv Shah 
One of most na├»ve arguments on rural areas, including those of Gujarat, has been regarding their homogeneous characteristic — the existence of “harmonious” social relations in which “self-sufficient” village communities live in a peaceful atmosphere. Based on this type of thinking, the Gujarat chief minister began his now famous “samras” experiment, under which village panchayats elected uncontested should be rewarded. However, sociologists have long demonstrated that in areas of strong homogeneity, there is a general tendency to repress controversy. As a result, when disagreements arise, they can result into serious crises.
Well-known human rights organization Navsarjan Trust’s documentary evidence, collected from several villages of Gujarat, recorded in several of its reports (click HERE to see them) has long suggested how such homogeneity in a caste-ridden society is a sham. Despite efforts by Dalit NGOs to fight discrimination against Dalits, as evidenced during their representation to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and a public hearing organized jointly by Navsarjan Trust and Gujarat Human Rights Commission, cases of social boycott, even forced migration, continue.
In 2009, a Navsarjan study, “A Legally Immune form of Discrimination: Report on Socioeconomic Boycotts of Dalits in Gujarat”, noted, “As Dalits become increasingly educated and aware, they have begun to demand the enforcement of their legal rights. These efforts have been met with staunch resistance by other castes, whose members have a stake in maintaining the existing status quo. By deterring attempts to access the law through complete ostracization from the social and economic life of the village, boycotts have become a major tool through which upper castes have stemmed the Dalit struggle for equality.” Updated information by the NGO has found that there is little sign of improvement in the situation, though the number of protests has evidently gone up.
About 26 families of Ghada village in Deesa taluka of Banaskantha district are failing to return to their village ever since they were forced to leave their homes for a “safer” haven, which they found 27 kilometres away from the village – in the open area front of Deesa mamlatdar’s office. Living in makeshift tents since 2009, their case has reached the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), and representations about their plight have been made to the Gujarat governor, apart from senior officials in Gandhinagar Sachivalaya. Begun with a small brawl, which led to a Dalit being overrun with a tractor, a riots-like situation in the village forced the villagers to leave Ghada.
According to Kantibhai Parmar, a senior activist, “The Gujarat government officials are refusing to recognize the 26 families as internally displaced, as it would mean a loss of face to them. Instead, they have promised to give these villagers land and housing in the village where they lived. The offer has been repeated by principal secretary, social justice and empowerment department, Sanjay Prasad, apart from local officials like district development officer and taluka development officer. The Dalits have refused on the ground that there is no guarantee for their safety. Meanwhile, they continue living in their makeshift tents, made of bamboo and polythene sheet. While they have been issued ration cards to buy food and police protection has been provided, children cannot go to school, and they live under unhygienic conditions.”
In a gruesome case, a Dalit youth, Lalji Kalabhai Sarvaiya of Akolali village of Una taluka in Junagarh district, was burnt alive on September 13, 2012 by a village mob of 150 persons. His house and along with that of a neighour, along with their belongings, were all set on fine by upper caste people, who suspected that Sarvaiya had a love affair with a girl belonging to a non-Dalit caste. After the ghastly incident, the family, which included Sarviaya’s parents and five brothers, were forced to shift to the Ambedkar colony in Una taluka, where they live today. While the case is pending in Junagarh sessions court, complaints have been made to the NHRC, and there has been a demand to for a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) investigation. Living unprotected, the family members and relatives of the deceased have no permanent source of livelihood after they fled from their home, leaving behind 14 bighas of land they owned.
In yet another case of Junagarh district, social boycott of Dalits has been continuing in Baman village, just 10 km from Junagarh town, since April 2013. It all began with a right to information (RTI) application by one of the Dalit youths about the “misuse” of the neighbouring open land being used by upper caste people as a dumping space for all the dirt of the village. The open space, which is actually common village land, is situated next to the Dalit houses. The health department asked the sarpanch of the village to remove the dirt from the place where it was being dumped.
This angered the upper castes, and a complete ban on keeping any contact with the Dalit families of the village was imposed. The Dalits are not being allowed to use the local flour mill to grind cereals; they can’t get their hair cut in the village; they can’t even get drinking water from the local village source. They must visit a neighouring village to fulfill their requirements. Thought a complaint has been lodged with the NHRC as also local government officials, the situation has not changed.
The Dalits of Rampar village of Muli taluka in Surendrangar district face a similar social boycott. Their only crime was, they tried performing puja in the local Meldi Mata temple, in whose construction they had also constructed. Now, the Dalits of the village cannot buy milk or vegetables or food items in the village shops, as they had “impured” the temple. A Rs 5,000 fine is in force on those who seek to “cooperate” with the Dalits in violation of the decision, arrived at by village elders belonging to non-Dalit castes. “While social boycott is on, the Gujarat government has been doggedly denying that any such thing exists in the village”, alleges activist Kantibhai Parmar.
A similar social boycott can be found to be existing in Jhaspar village in Padra taluka of Vadodara district, where the Dalits objected to a separate entrance and a separate sitting arrangement for them during a religious function, Navchandi Yagna. They also protested against paper dishes for food that was being served to them, while others were offered steel plates. “If you do not accept meal as is being offered, you are free to leave”, the Dalits were threatened. This made the Dalits to lodge a complaint with the local police, leading to beginning of social boycott against them. The Dalits are not only, not allowed to buy up anything from the village shops; they are not offered any work, too.

Comments

TRENDING

Zakir Naik tumult, Catholic Church power abuse: will Anwar Ibrahim save Malaysia?

Anwar Ibrahim By Jay Ihsan*  Anwar Ibrahim, a hardcore reformist who took a punch to his eye in 1998 from then inspector-general of police, Rahim Noor, has finally been given the mandate by Malaysians to serve as the nation's 10th prime minister. Anwar knows too well the burden of staying true to both trust and faith the people have in him requires every once of commitment and dedication. The question is will he be apologetic for his transgressions enroute to "rebuilding" Malaysia? In his overzealousness to get the job done, Anwar, 75, needs to safeguard every bit of gumption to address prickling issues plaguing the safety of the nation especially those involving communal sensitivities. For one, dare Anwar get rid of terrorist hate preacher and fugitive Zakir Naik for inciting religious unrest in Malaysia? In November 2016, India’s counter-terrorism agency filed an official complaint against Naik, holding him responsible for promoting religious hatred and unlawful activi

Although sporting genius, Wasim Akram was mascot of cricket globalisation era

By Harsh Thakor*  Since Independence India and Pakistan produced a galaxy of cricketing stars that permeated cricketing artistry of legendary heights. Amongst this bunch.Wasim Akram manifested pure cricketing genius to the greatest height.I speculate how India’s fortunes would have changed had partition not taken place and Wasim playing for India. Wasim Akram explored realms untranscended in bowling wizardry, like a painter devising new art forms or a scientist experimenting. He simply re-defined the art of reverse swing, reversing the ball in and out. There were bowlers quicker, more accurate and with better records, but none equalled Wasim in an all-round package. He was more lethal with a new and old ball than any fast bowler ever. Wasim could produce balls that were surreal, with his reverse swing, defying laws of bio mechanics He was simply the epitome of versatility, possessing a repertoire of six different deliveries within an over itself, disguising deliveries in the manner of

Alarming US data on child mental health: Wake-up call to end social malaise

By Bharat Dogra  If 1 out of 2 high school girls feel persistently sad or hopeless and one out of six students plan suicide in a year, isn’t it time for a society so affected to look inwards at what has gone wrong, so that at least, and as a first step, the causes of such a dismal state of affairs can be identified correctly? After all, effective remedial action depends first and foremost on a proper identification of causes. This is all the more necessary in a situation when, as this alarming official data for year 2019 for USA tells us, in addition there is an incredibly high rate of increase of these problems. According to the data of the  (the latest such data available at present and also quoted by the USA Surgeon General in the advisory issued by him in 2021), in 2019 37% of all high school students and half of female students reported persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness. What is more, within a decade (2009-2019), this had recorded a 40% increasing, rising from 26% to

Floods: As ax falls on most vulnerable, Pak seeks debt cancellation, climate justice

By Tanupriya Singh  Even as the floodwaters have receded, the people of Pakistan are still trying to grapple with the death and devastation the floods have left in their wake. The floods that swept across the country between June and September have killed more than 1,700 people, injured more than 12,800, and displaced millions as of November 18. The scale of the destruction in Pakistan was still making itself apparent as the world headed to the United Nations climate conference COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, in November.  Pakistan was one of two countries invited to co-chair the summit. It also served as chair of the Group of 77 (G77) and China for 2022, playing a critical role in ensuring that the establishment of a loss and damage fund was finally on the summit’s agenda, after decades of resistance by the Global North. “The dystopia has already come to our doorstep,” Pakistan’s Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman told Reuters. By the first week of September, pleas for h

Implementing misleading govt order to pollute Hyderabad's 100 year old reservoirs

Senior activists* represent to the Telangana Governor on GO Ms 69 dated 12.4.2022 issued by the Municipal Administration and Urban Development (MA&UD), Government of Telangana: ‘...restrictions imposed under para 3 of said GO Ms 111 dated 8.3.1996 are removed...’: *** Ref: GO Ms 111 dated 8.3.1996: ‘To prohibit polluting industries, major hotels, residential colonies or other establishments that generate pollution in the catchment of the lakes upto 10kms from full tank level as per list in Annexure-I...’ We come to your office with grievance that GO Ms 69 dated 12.4.2022 issued by Government of Telangana not only contains false information issued ‘By Order and in the name of the Governor of Telangana’ , without any scientific or expert reports, but also that implementation of the said GO is detrimental and can be catastrophic to the Hyderabad city as two 100 year old reservoirs Osman Sagar and Himayath Sagar were constructed as dams on river Moosa and river Esa, with the first and

Qatar World Cup has a strong Bangladesh connection: stadium construction, t-shirts

By Mashrur Siddique Bhuiyan*  The FIFA World Cup fever has unquestionably cut through the minds of mass people all over the world. Stadiums in Qatar are buzzing with football fans and athletes representing their countries at the “Greatest Show on Earth". The magic of the FIFA World Cup is so enormous that even being unable to participate does not matter much to the fans who support different nations. This is one of the highest viewed events in the world, with the 2018 event viewed by about 3.6 billion people worldwide. But this crowd is not aware of the contribution of migrant workers who helped build the very stadiums where the matches are playing in. Qatar won the bid in 2010 to host the FIFA World Cup 2022, which got the oxymoron of celebration and controversy. This also created the potential for Qatar to Showcase its monumental economic achievements and unique culture on the global stage. The motto for Qatar’s bid team in 2010 was ‘Expect Amazing’ and migrant workers across th

Why foreign diplomats must maintain diplomatic etiquette, protocol in Bangladesh

By Kamal Uddin Mazumder*  Foreign governments and organizations are not allowed to dictate how a sovereign country like Bangladesh should run its politics. The 12th national parliamentary elections are drawing near, and the election wind has started to blow in Dhaka. The political parties have already begun to plan their voting strategy through a variety of events. However, this time, the diplomatic community in Dhaka is very active. A number of Western ambassadors frequently meet with government departments, political party representatives, the Election Commission (EC), and members of civil society in Dhaka. At numerous forums, they discuss upcoming elections' management, fairness, and impartiality -- issues that are unquestionably domestic to Bangladesh and in no way fall under the purview of diplomacy. Additionally, it has been noted that diplomats have made public remarks on these subjects in front of the media. It raises the question of how much authority diplomatic protocol h

Bangladesh's ties with Myanmar, Nepal, China need connectivity with India's NE states

By Samara Ashrat*  On 26th November, India's External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said that India is trying to improve trade and connectivity with Bangladesh and Myanmar on his two-day visit to India's Northeast region. He emphasized the importance of linking Northeastern India to the rest of the nation and reiterated Delhi is working to improve connectivity and infrastructure in the region. By taking the G20 presidency India will try to showcase the true spirit of the Northeast to the world, with its tourism benefits. But, the umbilical cord between the Indian mainland and North Eastern Region is Chicken's Neck or Siliguri corridor which brings Bangladesh into the Indian equation of northeastern development. Not only that, Bangladesh has very close relations with West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya, and Tripura in terms of language, culture, and history. These factors make Bangladesh an inextricable element of the development of the northeastern states. Tourism Sector and Con

25 years of CHT peace accord: A glorious chapter of conflict resolution in Bangladesh

By Kamal Uddin Mazumder*  Conflicts between the Bangladesh army and Shanti Bahini persisted in the Chittagong Hill Tracts for more than two decades. On December 2, 1997, Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS) and the Bangladeshi government signed the CHT Accord, putting an end to the violent armed conflict and improving the life of a lot of the people there. It has been made possible through just seven meetings under the worthy leadership of Sheikh Hasina. The historic peace agreement created an atmosphere of peace in the mountainous region. An atmosphere of peace has been established by ending the armed conflict. The geographical features and ethnic diversity of Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) are distinctive. The 13,184 square kilometer territory is bordered by Myanmar and the Indian state of Mizoram on the East and Tripura on the North. With its 1.6 million people, it entails great importance to Bangladesh for its geopolitical location. Due to the conflict-prone Northeast Indi

A classic, 'Gandhi' ignores merciless cruelty unleashed on militant freedom fighters

By Harsh Thakor  The movie ‘Gandhi’ produced by Richard Attenborough, which was released 40 years ago on November 30th, 1982, was classic in it's own right. Ironical that it took an Englishman to embark upon the making of a film on this legendary figure. I can't visualize a better pictorial portrayal of Gandhi's life or an actor getting in the skin of the character an exuding the mannerisms as actor Ben Kingsley. Episodes are crafted and grafted surgically, illustrating how Gandhi wove fragmented bits into a cohesive force, to confront he British empire. Most boldly the movie unfolds how British colonialism subjugated the Indian people to barbaric cruelty. With great mastery the cinematography captures the vast Indian landscapes and essence of livelihood of Indians under colonial rule. The movie most illustratively shows the crystallisation of anti-colonial fervour from the embryonic stage and how it fermented into an integrated movement. In a most subtle manner it illustr