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Showing posts from July, 2016

Gujarat Dalit agitation leaders "regret" lack of support from non-Dalit communities, well-known secularists

By Rajiv Shah
While agitations may have rocked Gujarat's urban and semi-urban areas against cow vigilantes in Una violently thrashing four Dalits belonging to the Rohit (chamar) sub-caste after tying them with SUV on July 11, questions are beginning to be raised about their sustainability.
Claiming a “strong wave of anger” among Dalits, a day ahead of the Dalit “mahasammelan” of July 31 in Ahmedabad, even the top organizers lament “lack of support” from other communities, as also “lack of awareness” among non-Dalits about untouchability and caste discrimination, and refusal to join in, in any manner.
“We are a largely spontaneous movement spread out of anger against the injustice meted out to the Dalits in the recent past. We are angry ever since the Thangadh incident, in which three Dalit youths were killed in police firing. In two cases, even the chargesheet has not been filed. Worse, the official report prepared on the incident by IAS official Sanjay Prasad has not been made pub…

Abandoned?: Displaced in Gujarat 2002 riots, 3,000 Muslim families face eviction from their former "protectors"

By Rajiv Shah
In an astounding revelation, 14 years after the horrendous communal flare-up in Gujarat, in which at least 1,000 people died and nearly one lakh got displaced, about 3,000 families still living in irregular rehabilitation colonies are facing hostility from several well-known Muslim NGOs which had initially helped them.
Even as naming these organizations, a policy paper, authored by two senior Ahmedabad-based activists, Johanna Lokhande and Hozefa Ujjaini, has alleged, “These organizations have turned their backs on the people refusing to entertain them.”
Calling it a new challenge, the paper, titled “Failing Act of Benevolence”, a copy of which Counterview, says, what is adding insult to injury all these colonies is, these NGOs helped these riot victims on to resettle on private land by providing them plots, they are not being allowed “ownership rights”, with threat of eviction if they raise their voice.
“In certain places, where committees were formed to overlook at the we…

Gujarat govt's anti-pollution watchdog GPCB doesn't consider agate industry hazardous, has no data: NHRC

By Rajiv Shah
In a shocking revelation, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has found that the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB), the state government’s powerful anti-pollution watchdog, does not consider agate industry hazardous . It regrets, “As such, GPCB is not having any data regarding omission of silica dust in agate work.”
The report –based on an NHRC team’s spot inquiry last year, acting five years after a complaint filed by Jagdish Patel, a well-known social activist working among agate workers for several decades – says, “No pollution check has been carried out by the GPCB in the premises of agate factories/units.”
The team, which took along with it staff of the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) to examine the extent of pollution caused by the agate industry in Khambhat taluka of Anand district, says that during a visit to one of the agate registered units, “there was an attempt to wash rooms and roofs where drums had been kept for crushing the agates.”
“…

When North Gujarat Gandhians told Dalits: Dead cattle beef eating lowered their status among "higher" castes

By Rajiv Shah
Amidst controversy surrounding flogging of four Dalits belonging to the Rohit (chamar) community for eating the beef a dead cow continues unabated, a top blogging site has published excerpts of a 1989 paper by a senior Vienna-based sociologist, who highlights how the despicable practice in Gujarat was related with the perception that cattle scavengers “remove the impurity attached to the carcass and transfer it to themselves.”
Authored by Prof Shalini Randeria, currently rector at the Institute of Human Sciences, Vienna, the paper is based on her fieldwork in several villages in Sabarkantha and Mehsana districts (North Gujarat) and Ahmedabad in 1983-84 and 1987. The paper is titled "Carrion and corpses: Conflict in categorizing untouchability in Gujarat” was published in “European Journal of Sociology”, Vol 30, No 2.
Pointing out that the perception was linked with the view that “death is the most potent of all the sources of impurity and inauspiciousness in the life …

Gujarat BJP "sure", Dalit unrest wouldn't affect party's support base; Congress thinks otherwise

By Rajiv Shah
Dalits across Gujarat, especially in Saurashtra, may have agitated against the July 11 incident, when four youths belonging to the Rohit (chamar) sub-caste were violently beaten up with iron rods after being tied with SUV, first in village Mota Samadhiyala and then in Una town of south Saurashtra.
But the BJP leadership in Gujarat appears to think that the incident is “not much of political consequence”, and people would forget about it “very soon”.
Senior BJP leaders this correspondent talked with said, there would be “no impact” on the overall political scenario, as the 2017 assembly elections are “far away”. The all-Gujarat bandh, called by various Dalit organizations last Wednesday, is being brushed aside as “symbolic” and “confined to isolated localities”, and “largely a non-political affair.”
BJP state president Vijay Rupani, a longtime confidante of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, told this correspondent, “A largely law and order problem, the BJP government has taken al…

India's "below average" progress in sustainability of income equality, civil society, governance, environment

By Rajiv Shah
A high-profile report prepared by the Boston Consulting Group, US, has suggested that India may have progressed well in the economic indicator (which consists of income, economic stability and employment), and investment (instructure, health and education), but its progress in sustainability (income equality, civil society, governance and environment) remains below world average.
Rating 162 countries across the world, though without ranking them, the report finds that in the overall economic progress, India's score is 45.6 (on a scale of 100), higher than the world average of 43.2; in progress in investment, the score is 54.6, with the world average being 40.1; but in progress in sustainability, its score is 50.4, below the world average of 54.4 per cent.
The report, which seeks to analyze data up to 2014-end, finds that, among BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), in all three indicators of progress -- economics, investment and sustainabili…

Dalit outrage? BJP in Gujarat appears “relaxed”

By Rajiv Shah
Amidst the recent Dalit agitation in Gujarat in the wake of the July 11 attack on four Dalit youths belonging to the Rohit (chamar) community off Una for skinning a dead cow, I decided to find out what would be the impact of the incident, already a national issue, on Gujarat politics. Apart from immediately getting in touch with some senior Dalit rights activists, I contacted a few senior BJP and Congress leaders, too. The reason I did this was, one of my friends, who happens to be a senior activist, Ashok Shrimali, a Dalit, would always tell me how, over the years, and especially after the 2002 riots, “80 per cent of the Dalits have moved away from the Congress to the BJP”.
While a few other non-political Dalit activists would vehemently deny this, I decided to go by the observation of Teesta Setalvad, who said in a recent article, “Dalits and the Hindu Rashtra: A Close Look at the Gujarat Model”: “As we saw in 2002, it is Dalits who have been used and abused to carry out…

589 silicosis deaths in 3 Madhya Pradesh districts. Reason: "Distress" tribal migration to Gujarat's quartz units

By Rajiv Shah
Tracking patients suffering from silicosis over the last four years in Madhya Pradesh's Alirajpur, Jhabua and Dhar, a state-based non-government organization (NGO) has said in a new report that a total of 589 people have died in 105 villages of the three districts because of the deadly disease in 2015. The report was finalized in April 2016.
Titled “Destined to Die: Status of Silicosis Patients in 3 Tribal Dominated Districts of Madhya Pradesh”, the report, which is based on what is called action research survey carried out by an NGO network Nai Shuruwat, claims that all these patients caught silicosis while working over 10 years in 35 “listed quartz crushing factories” located in the Kheda, Vadodara and Panchmahal districts of Gujarat.
Done in association with Silicosis Peedit Sangh and Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, the survey, which seeks to give the overall socio-economic status of 1,219 patients on the basis of individual interviews, says that most of them are tribals and…

Government inaction is turning the banks of the Narmada into salt pans

By Rajiv Shah
Rural areas in the downstream of the Narmada dam in the Bharuch district of Gujarat have been in the midst of one of the worst environmental disasters. Massive sea water intrusion from the Bay of Khambhat, for upto 40 kilometres eastwards into the Narmada has allegedly “destroyed” 10,000 hectares of agricultural land.
Following a joint meeting of gram sabhas of 18 affected villages, hundreds of rural folk, led by their sarpanches, approached the Bharuch district collector on June 17 saying the refusal of authorities to release fresh water from the Narmada dam has led to both sides of the river becoming saline. Following this, a Sangh Parivar outfit, Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS), in a representation to the district collector, said that around 10,000 hectares of fertile agricultural land had been badly affected.
Salimbhai Patel, sarpanch of Piraman village says, “The two sides of the banks, right up to the religious spot Shukalteerth, which is 40 kilometres from the Bay of Kha…

Swamy “used and abandoned”? This is what happened in Gujarat

By Rajiv Shah
Prime Minister Narendra Modi may have “cleared” his views on BJP’s maverick politician Subramaniam Swamy. However, whatever I know of Modi as chief minister of Gujarat during my nearly 15 year stint in Gandhinagar as the Times of India correspondent, it wasn’t at all surprising the way he reacted. His “critique” of Swamy, if it all it can be called that, came after Reserve Bank of India Raghuram Rajan had decided to quit and return to the academia in Chicago. So, was Swamy “used and abandoned”, to quote a phrase used by Gujarat’s top cop GL Singhal in the “Gujarat Files”, a book based on stings by journalist Rana Ayyub to “expose” government role in 2002 riots and fake encounters?
In fact, any reference of Swamy as a “maverick” would remind me of a Gujarat-based maverick politician, with whom I had, I must admit, an uneasy relationship. Looking back, I sometimes feel it was perhaps a mistake on my part to be ill at ease with this IPS-turned-politician, who had been a Cabin…