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Fwd: [ZESTCaste] Digest Number 729

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  • Goldy George
    Dear friends: Kindly go through this and you will find very interesting aspects going on in the Dalit world of India. At the same time Tressa or Max can add
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 16, 2006
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      Dear friends:
      Kindly go through this and you will find very interesting aspects going on in the Dalit world of India. At the same time Tressa or Max can add some of these into the special feature on the webpage of justpeace...
       
      Warm regards
      Goldy

      ZESTCaste@yahoogroups.com wrote:
      Date: 16 Dec 2006 13:48:51 -0000
      From: ZESTCaste@yahoogroups.com
      To: ZESTCaste@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: [ZESTCaste] Digest Number 729

      Messages In This Digest (19 Messages)

      Messages

      1.

      Puja stopped in Orissa temple after Dalits' entry (News)

      Posted by: "Tarun Udwala" tarun.udwala@...   tarunudgir

      Fri Dec 15, 2006 9:06 am (PST)

      http://www.expressi ndia.com/ fullstory. php?newsid= 78265

      Friday, December 15, 2006

      Puja stopped in Orissa temple after Dalits' entry

      Press Trust of India

      Keredagada, Orissa, December 15: Puja was stopped and an uneasy calm
      prevailed on Friday in Keredagada village in coastal Kendrapara
      district a day after groups of Dalits entered the 300-year-old
      Jagannath temple, breaking an age-old social barrier.
      Four Dalits quietly entered the shrine on Thursday and offered
      prayers, after which about 100 people belonging to the backward caste,
      mostly women and children, visited the shrine in groups.

      Septuagenarian Baidyanath Jena made the first quiet entry into the
      shrine--which had remained an exclusive preserve of the upper
      castes--ending days of suspense on whether Dalits would be allowed
      into the temple.

      In a fresh twist to the drama, priests closed the sanctum sanctorum
      soon after the four Dalits entered it. Others who followed just made a
      round of the 'bedha' or circumfereance before leaving.

      Since then the sanctum sanctorum has remained closed and no rituals
      are being conducted in the temple, locals said.

      "No one has entered the temple since yesterday as rituals have stopped
      and the two priests are not there," an upper caste villager, standing
      at a distance, said.

      Though the upper castes have opposed the long-standing demand of
      Dalits to be allowed to enter the shrine and resented the agitation
      launched by them, they had remained quiet after the December 5 ruling
      of the Orissa High Court, which said every Hindu, irrespective of
      caste, has a right to enter any Hindu temple open to other Hindus.

      2.

      Two statues of Ambedkar found damaged in Kanpur (News)

      Posted by: "Tarun Udwala" tarun.udwala@...   tarunudgir

      Fri Dec 15, 2006 9:06 am (PST)

      http://www.zeenews. com/znnew/ articles. asp?aid=342262& sid=REG

      Two statues of Ambedkar found damaged in Kanpur

      Kanpur, Dec 15: Two statues of Bhim Rao Ambedkar were found damaged in
      separate areas here today triggering tension in the localities,
      authorities said.

      Chief Development Officer of Kanpur Dehat Nand Kishore Yadav told
      reporters that this morning the statues of Ambedkar were found damaged
      in Ahmedpur Sauda and Sherpur Karaunda areas of Gajner Police circle
      here.

      He said as soon as the news spread people assembled near the damaged
      statues and staged demonstrations. They demanded immediate arrest of
      the culprits and replacement of the statues.

      Yadav said an FIR in this connection has been lodged and orders given
      for their replacement.

      He said the situation was slowly becoming normal and people started
      returning to their homes.

      This is the second such incident of damaging of Ambedakar's statue in
      the city in a fortnight. On November 29, a statue of the Dalit leader
      was found damaged in Kakadeo area of Kanpur city. The district
      administration replaced the damaged statue but no arrest has been made
      so far in this connection.

      Bureau Report

      3.

      Dalit fury, farmers' suicides dominate Maharashtra political landsca

      Posted by: "Tarun Udwala" tarun.udwala@...   tarunudgir

      Fri Dec 15, 2006 9:06 am (PST)

      http://www.newkeral a.com/news4. php?action= fullnews& id=66639

      Maharashtra News

      Dalit fury, farmers' suicides dominate Maharashtra political landscape

      Vilas Tokale, Mumbai, Dec 15: Dalit fury in the wake of Khairlanji
      killings, rising incidents of farmers' suicides, assassination of BJP
      leader Pramod Mahajan and the July 11 serial train blasts kept
      Maharashtra in the news headlines for much of 2006.

      The July 11 blasts as also September 8 Malegaon explosions highlighted
      the threat continued threat of terrorism in the state.

      The year also saw scions of prominent politicial families joining
      active politics. They include NCP President Sharad Pawar's daughter
      Supriya and Pramod Mahajan's daughter Poonam.

      Violence across the state following desecration of Babasaheb
      Ambedkar's statue in distant Kanpur in November resulted in
      large-scale damage to properties, with over 300 government vehicles
      being targetted and two trains set afire.

      Three people were killed in the violence, two of them in police
      firing. What led to the explosion of the pent-up Dalit anger was the
      killing of four members of a family at Khairlanji village of Bhandara
      district in Vidarbha on September 29.

      The state government, after vociferous demand by opposition parties
      and Dalit organizations, handed over the Khairlanji probe to CBI. The
      issue also revived hopes of unity of the various factions of
      Republican Party of India which profess the cause of Dalits in the
      state.

      --- PTI

      4.

      Keradagarh temple entry impasse continues (News)

      Posted by: "Tarun Udwala" tarun.udwala@...   tarunudgir

      Fri Dec 15, 2006 9:06 am (PST)

      http://www.ndtv. com/template/ template. asp?template= dalitatrocities& slug=Keradagarh+ temple+entry+ impasse+continue s&id=98001& callid=1& category= National

      Keradagarh temple entry impasse continues

      Sampad Mahapatra , PS Thakur

      Friday, December 15, 2006 (Keradagarh) :

      The sanctum sanctorum of the Jagannath temple in Keradagarh has been
      closed after three groups of Dalits, armed with a High Court order
      entered its premises recently.

      Their entry put an end to the 250-year-old ban on their entry into the
      temple. But upper caste Hindus decided not to perform any puja
      thereafter.

      "The temple has been desecrated and is closed. We will wait till our
      Raja arrives and a general body meeting of 22 villages is held," said
      a priest.

      Upper caste Hindus have decided to conduct darshans of the shrine
      through nine peep holes meant for Dalits.

      "We will not visit the temple any more. We will have darshan through
      the nine holes," said an old man.

      The villagers were also on a protest fast on Friday, but the Dalits
      who entered the temple are unperturbed despite the temple being
      closed.

      "We are very happy to have a clear darshan of the Lord. No one can
      stop us from going there. And if the temple is closed, it's closed for
      both them and us. If it's open, it's open for both," said an old lady.

      Bone of contention

      But in the midst of all this positioning, the Ambedkar-Lohia Vichar
      Manch spearheading the Dalit movement in Keradagarh, is keen to avoid
      a direct confrontation.

      "We don't want to give a feeling that we are challenging them. We
      would like to establish brotherhood in true sense. We are not
      superseding them, we are only trying to be equals," said Sangram
      Mallick, Chairman Ambedkar Lohia Manch.

      The administration, which ensured safe passage to the Dalits, says its
      role is limited to maintaining law and order.

      "That is not a matter where force can be applied. Do you think that
      the government will impose something, arrest them and further the law
      and order situation in the area," said BB Harichandan, Minister, Law
      and Rural Development, Orissa.

      As the stalemate continues over this feudal discrimination, it will
      require a lot more than persuasion to convince the upper castes to
      share the temple with the Dalits.

      5.

      Reservation bill passed in Lok Sabha (News)

      Posted by: "Tarun Udwala" tarun.udwala@...   tarunudgir

      Fri Dec 15, 2006 9:06 am (PST)

      http://www.rediff. com/news/ 2006/dec/ 14quota1. htm

      Reservation bill passed in Lok Sabha

      December 14, 2006 | 19:00 IST

      The reservation bill, which will enable 27 percentage of seats in
      central educational institutions to be kept aside for students of the
      Other Backward Classes, was on Thursday passed in the Lok Sabha.

      The Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Bill,
      2006, which provides for 27 per cent reservation to OBCs, was passed
      by a voice vote after amendments moved by the Bharatiya Janata Party
      for including minority institutions in its purview was rejected.

      The government promised to come up very soon with a bill providing for
      reservation in unaided educational institutions.

      Replying to a daylong debate on the bill, Human Resources Minister
      Arjun Singh dismissed the opposition's fears that excluding the
      minority institutions will affect the admission of Scheduled Classes,
      Scheduled Tribes and the OBC students in such institutions that have
      been enrolling them for several years.

      The minister said the government was preparing a new bill for unaided
      institutions and very soon, it will come to the House.

      The debate saw the members generally hailing the measure with some
      describing it as revolutionary.

      There were also demands for reservation in private sector and the judiciary.

      The bill has not excluded the creamy layer despite the parliamentary
      standing committee for HRD concluding that this segment should be
      covered only after giving priority to non-creamy among the backwards.

      There had been division within the UPA with several Dravidian parties
      opposing the exclusion of creamy layer, a demand made by the Left
      parties.

      The government has already announced that the quota regime would be
      made operational from the academic year 2007.

      Arjun Singh introduced the bill in Lok Sabha on August 25.

      The bill provides for a mandatory increase of seats in Central
      educational institutions that would be attained over a maximum period
      of three years beginning with 2007 academic session.

      The bill, applicable to central universities, IITs and IIMs and
      certain other institutions established, maintained or aided by the
      central government, defines OBCs as the class or classes of citizens
      who are socially and educationally backward and are so determined by
      the central government.

      Singh said the measure will be implemented in a staggering manner as
      there were "practical difficulties" due to faculty and other factors
      like infrastructure.

      At the same time, he said, if any institution can implement it in one
      go, they can do so. The minister assured all assistance to these
      institutions to make the quota regime a reality. The Bill envisages 27
      per cent seat reservation for OBCs in admission in central educational
      institutions besides 15 per cent for SCs and 7.5 per cent for STs.

      As many as eight institutions of excellence including Homi Bhabha
      National Institute and its constituent units like Bhabha Atomic
      Research Centre as also Tata Institute of Fundamental Research and
      Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, Bangalore,
      are excluded from the quota regime.

      The other institutions that are excluded from the quota purview are
      North-Eastern Indira Gandhi Regional Institute of Health and Medical
      Science, Shillong, National Brain Research Centre, Manesar, Gurgaon,
      Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad, Space Physics Laboratory,
      Thiruvananthapuram and Indian Institute of Remote Sensing, Dehradun.

      The provisions of the bill will not apply to minority educational institutions.

      In a move to ensure that the general category of seats are not
      reduced, the bill has made it clear that the increase of seats in any
      branch of study or faculty was not less than the number of such seats
      available for the preceding academic session.

      Singh said all institutions in the Northeast have been excluded from
      the measure as the region was predominantly tribal.

      The minister did not see any merit in the argument of BJP members that
      the exclusion of minority institutions would hamper the entry of
      minority Dalits or OBCs in these institutions.

      Earlier, BJP MP M A Kharabela Swain alleged that the measure was
      intended to ensure that institutions run by Hindus should ensure
      reservation to OBCS while it was not so for the minority institutions.

      He contended that the minorities too should share the responsibility
      of bringing up deprived segments in these classes.

      Telugu Desam Party MP K Yerrannaidu suggested setting up of a
      parliamentary committee of OBC members to ensure that the quota regime
      was properly implemented.

      6.

      Protest after 'low-caste' priest denied temple entry (News)

      Posted by: "Tarun Udwala" tarun.udwala@...   tarunudgir

      Fri Dec 15, 2006 9:07 am (PST)

      http://www.gulf- daily-news. com/Story. asp?Article= 164510&Sn= WORL&IssueID= 29269

      Vol XXIX NO. 269 Thursday 14 December 2006

      Protest after 'low-caste' priest denied temple entry

      NEW DELHI: Hundreds of 'low-caste' Indians, known as dalits or
      untouchables, entered a temple in the western Indian state of
      Rajasthan to protest a dalit priest being denied entry, a news report
      said yesterday.

      The angry dalit villagers gathered in Sulia village, 265km south of
      the state capital Jaipur and entered the temple holding placards and
      singing hymns.

      The village had been split along caste lines since October this year
      when 'upper caste' villagers stopped a dalit priest from worshipping
      at a local temple. The dalits said the priest was beaten up and when
      they complained to the local police no action was taken.

      "We feel discriminated against and insulted when (upper) caste Hindus
      deny a dalit priest the right of worship," Bhanwar Meghvanshi, a dalit
      activist said.

      The local administration had stationed police officers near the temple
      to prevent possible clashes between the villagers but no violence
      occurred.

      Caste divisions exist in traditional Hinduism, setting limits on
      economic and educational advancement.

      An overwhelming majority of low-caste Indians remain economically
      deprived and continue to battle prejudice.

      7.

      Priests to purify Orissa temple after Dalit entry (News)

      Posted by: "Tarun Udwala" tarun.udwala@...   tarunudgir

      Fri Dec 15, 2006 9:07 am (PST)

      http://www.newkeral a.com/news4. php?action= fullnews& id=66634

      Priests to purify Orissa temple after Dalit entry

      Kendrapada (Orissa), Dec 15: A day after 200 Dalits entered an Orissa
      temple in the wake of a court ruling in their favour, the temple's
      priests Friday said they would perform purification rituals.

      The Dalits Thursday entered the Jagannath temple at Keradagarh
      village, 45 km from here, defying an age-old ban on their entry by
      upper castes. They also performed rituals under police protection
      following last week's high court ruling that allowed them to do so.

      However, the temple's chief priest Madan Mohan Panda said: "We stopped
      all the rituals that have been regularly performed since decades after
      they (Dalits) entered the temple Thursday."

      "The Dalits have besmirched the religious traditions and made impure
      the temple. Now as per practice, we need to perform Maha Snana, a bath
      ritual of the deity," Panda told IANS.

      "We have already contacted the local royal family members as the
      temple was built in the 18th century by their predecessors to seek
      their permission to perform the purification rituals.

      "Until the purification rituals are performed, the main gate of the
      temple would not be opened by us," he said.

      Upper caste campaigner Suren Swain said: "We will organise a meeting
      of a large number of upper caste people Saturday to chalk out plans to
      prevent any further entry of Dalits into the temple."

      Dalits have, however, demanded action against the priests and upper
      caste leaders who were violating court orders by opposing their entry.

      "The district administration should arrest people who illegally closed
      the main door and stopped the routine rituals," said Rabindra Sethi,
      the president of the district's Ambedkar and Lohia Vichar Manch.

      Dalits comprise 400 of the village's 1,400 population. In November
      2004, villagers had beaten up four Dalit women for entering the
      temple. Though Dalits tried to enter the temple many times, they were
      barred by the upper castes.

      The Dalits then moved the Orissa High Court, seeking police protection
      when they entered the temple. A division bench of the high court last
      week ruled that all Hindus had the right to enter any temple,
      irrespective of caste.

      Though Dalits had entered the temple with police protection Thursday,
      it would be difficult for them to reenter as most of the villagers are
      from the upper castes, Sethi said.

      Anticipating untoward incidents, the local administration has deployed
      police forces in the village, a district police official said.

      Police have also issued arrest warrants against three upper caste
      leaders - Managobinda Jena, Suren Swain, and Seshadev Nanda - for
      allegedly instigating people to oppose the entry of Dalits into the
      temple.

      --- IANS

      8.

      Trouble-free entry for Dalits to Orissa temple (News)

      Posted by: "Tarun Udwala" tarun.udwala@...   tarunudgir

      Fri Dec 15, 2006 9:08 am (PST)

      http://www.hindu. com/2006/ 12/15/stories/ 2006121504371600 .htm

      Front Page

      Trouble-free entry for Dalits to Orissa temple

      Prafulla Das

      Any Hindu can enter any temple: court

      Police pickets have been posted near the temple
      Priests leave the shrine

      BHUBANESWAR: The Dalits of Keredagada village in Orissa's Kendrapara
      district entered the Lord Jagannath temple of their village on
      Thursday despite stiff opposition from the caste Hindus of the area.

      The entry of the Dalits into the 300-year-old temple was smooth and
      trouble-free. One platoon of policemen was on duty near the temple
      when five Dalits entered the temple and had darshan of the deities
      around at 12.25 p.m. Senior officials of the administration were also
      present.

      However, tension started building up when more and more Dalits from
      Keredagada and nearby hamlets started visiting the temple and the
      priests left the shrine, resulting in non-performance of the rituals.

      Official sources said the priests and servitors left the temple
      following instructions from the upper caste people, who have since
      decided to hold a meeting on Friday to decide their stand.

      The Dalits were able to muster the courage to enter the temple
      following a recent order of the High Court, which said that any Hindu,
      irrespective of his caste, could enter any Hindu temple.

      The High Court passed the order while disposing of a public interest
      litigation petition filed by a lawyer seeking protection for the
      Dalits seeking entry into the Keredagada temple.

      Dalit movement

      The Dalit movement for gaining entry into the temple had begun when
      four Dalit girls were humiliated for entering the temple on November
      5, 2005.

      The leaders of Ambedkar-Lohia Vichar Manch, which was spearheading the
      movement, were not present when the Dalit men went inside the temple.

      9.

      AIIMS doctors on hunger strike against quotas (News)

      Posted by: "Tarun Udwala" tarun.udwala@...   tarunudgir

      Fri Dec 15, 2006 9:08 am (PST)

      http://timesofindia .indiatimes. com/Quota_ row_AIIMS_ docs_on_hunger_ strike/articlesh ow/818315. cms

      AIIMS doctors on hunger strike against quotas
      [ 15 Dec, 2006 1433hrs ISTIANS ]

      NEW DELHI: A section of doctors in a leading hospital here are on
      hunger strike on Friday to protest against reservation of seats in
      educational institutions but pledged not to make life difficult for
      patients.

      Worried over the clearance of the quota Bill by the Lok Sabha on
      Thursday, 15 resident doctors of the All India Institute of Medical
      Sciences (AIIMS) started the hunger strike in the campus.

      "Our protest against injustice will continue. Currently, only 15
      doctors are on hunger strike. The situation will be reviewed later,"
      said Anil Sharma, the representative of resident doctors at AIIMS.

      He promised not to let patients suffer.

      Sharma said they were in touch with resident doctors of other medical
      colleges in Delhi and added that 1,200 doctors would meet on Friday
      evening to decide their future course of action.

      However, some patients said they were ready for the worst and would
      leave AIIMS if services got paralysed.

      "We know about the problems patients faced in May. We are ready to
      move out in an emergency," said Rajesh Kalra from Ghaziabad.

      Kalra, whose mother is suffering from kidney problems, said it was
      better to leave the hospital rather than stay unattended.

      Health services in the capital's state-run hospitals were crippled in
      May when hundreds of doctors took a two-week leave to protest the
      central government's proposal to reserve 27 percent seats in higher
      educational institutions across India for other backward classes
      (OBCs).

      Nearly 8,000 people avail of medical care at AIIMS every day. Of them,
      6,000 are treated through outpatient departments.

      10.

      Forest People Take War on Evictions to the Cities (fwd)

      Posted by: "Shiva Shankar" sshankar@...

      Fri Dec 15, 2006 9:08 am (PST)


      "... Man Singh, a tribal leader and activist in Dungarpur, said: "It is
      difficult and costly for us to go to distant places like Delhi to protest.
      But if we do not fight for our rights who will?" ..."

      http://www.ipsnews. net/news. asp?idnews= 35768

      ENVIRONMENT- INDIA: Forest People Take War on Evictions to the Cities
      Bharat Dogra*

      DUNGARPUR, Rajasthan, Dec 8 (IPS/IFEJ) - The dusty road leads to a pond
      with pleasant greenery surrounding it. Even the nearby village has a
      remarkably large number of trees that contrast with stark, arid
      surroundings.

      This is Naya Talaab - a tribal village in the remote Dungarpur district of
      India's desert state of Rajasthan. Sharda, a Bhil tribal woman, proudly
      says that the villagers under the government's rural employment guarantee
      scheme created the pond and that it now admirably serves to conserve
      precious water and moisture.

      But, the mood turns grim as the topic turns to the subject of land
      ownership.

      In July, the village was invaded by a group of well-armed forest
      department officials who destroyed the crops that the villagers had
      planted with much care. Vasanti, a leader of the village women, said: "We
      beat our dhols (drums) to get the people to gather and persuade the
      officials not to destroy our crops. It was with great difficulty that I
      could save my field."

      That was not the end of their woes. Durgashankar Nanoma, a socially alert
      villager who has been involved in mobilising people on land related
      issues, said: "The next day the police came with a list of villagers to be
      arrested, including several women. They were taken to the police station
      and then to jail. To get them out on bail was a real struggle."

      Social activist Shantilal said, "The only fault of these villagers was
      that they tried to save their crops from destruction. Now they are
      implicated in long, drawn-out court proceedings and are forced to take
      loans at high interest rates for legal expenses.''

      The official version is that the tribals were cultivating land which
      belongs to the forest department and therefore they had to be evicted.

      Bhanvar Singh, an activist with ‘Aasthaa', an organisation fighting for
      the land rights of tribal peasants in Rajasthan, differs. "The forest
      department has ignored the rights of many small tribal peasants
      cultivating this land. For these people this is the main or the only
      source of livelihood."

      For many years the issue of tribal rights over forests remained low-key as
      petty officials collected bribes and chickens from tribals and in return
      allowed them to cultivate the fields. Now the same officials are busy
      carrying out evictions across a rapidly industrialising India.

      According to R.D. Vyas, an Aasthaa activist, with international funding
      available for forest management and plantations, the forest department is
      more interested in evicting the tribals to get hold of vacant land. "But
      equally, a strong struggle by tribals and forest-dwellers has emerged to
      demand regularisation of their land," he told IPS.

      India's tribals are increasingly taking their demands to the national
      capital and other cities. On Nov. 29, thousands of tribals marched through
      the wide boulevards of New Delhi to press for the quick passage of the
      Scheduled Tribes (Recognition of Forest Rights) Bill, pending in
      parliament since 2005.

      An estimated four million people live in India's national parks and
      sanctuaries alone. Many more, some say up to 50 million people, inhabit
      the reserved and protected forests and have been there for generations,
      eking out livelihoods from forest produce such as honey, herbs and fruit
      and basic farming. But no forest management plan recognises this and
      present law deems the tribals to be encroachers and poachers.

      The result is that forest guards extort bribes from tribals and
      forest-dwellers with impunity, and when they cannot pay, collaborate with
      the owners of commercial plantations and land grabbers to take over large
      chunks of land.

      Activists see the pending bill as the last hope for both the tribals and
      the environment since its stated aim is to give tribals the legal right to
      the land and the resources that they have been using and protecting for
      generations.

      "This is a very important bill dealing with the livelihoods of over 2
      million households, or over 10 million people that live in forest areas,"
      said Bhanwar Singh, an activist with the Campaign for Survival and Dignity
      (CSD), a national platform for tribals and forest dwellers, which
      organised the November rally in New Delhi.

      But there are several catches, Singh pointed out. The bill, as drafted,
      gives local officials total power over people's rights and insists that
      any land claimed should have been continuously occupied since 1980. Over
      the last 26 years, millions of forest-dwellers have been forced to move to
      new areas through displacement or eviction, precisely because they had no
      recorded rights.

      Controversy over this forced the government to send the bill to a joint
      parliamentary committee, which came to the unanimous conclusion that the
      best way to ensure justice for tribals and conservation was to bring in
      transparency, accountability and democracy.

      The parliamentary committee also recommended that communities should have
      the legal right to protect forests. In other words, the committee
      recognised that forest-dwellers are partners in conservation and not
      poachers or encroachers.

      According to Shankar Gopalakrishnan, secretary to the CSD, the bill has
      already been whittled down considerably and is under threat from logging
      and mining companies. "More protests and rallies are being planned in
      December and January to ensure passage of the bill in a manner that
      benefits tribals and forest-dwellers, " he said.

      Man Singh, a tribal leader and activist in Dungarpur, said: "It is
      difficult and costly for us to go to distant places like Delhi to protest.
      But if we do not fight for our rights who will?"

      *This story is part of a series of features on sustainable development by
      IPS (Inter Press Service) and IFEJ (International Federation of
      Environmental Journalists) . (END/2006)
      11.

      Dead-end Khairlanji

      Posted by: "Tarun Udwala" tarun.udwala@...   tarunudgir

      Fri Dec 15, 2006 9:09 am (PST)

      http://in.news. yahoo.com/ 061213/48/ 6a9lp.html

      Thu, Dec 14
      Dead-end Khairlanji

      By IE
      Thursday December 14, 03:16 AM
      At the inter-state council meeting on December 9, the prime minister
      gave out some prescriptions to chief ministers to address the problem
      of continuing atrocities on Scheduled Castes. He urged them to
      register cases under the "stronger provisions of the Prevention of
      Atrocities Act" and not under the weaker provisions of the Indian
      Penal Code; create "special cells to be preferably manned by senior
      officers from the SC/ST community to monitor and enforce... that Act"
      and show "compassion for the victims", a "firm resolve to deal with
      the perpetrators" ; and the "political will to enforce the law and
      ensure easy access to the police and the justice system for the
      vulnerable sections" because "legislation alone" is not "sufficient in
      dealing with social violence". The "continuing atrocities against the
      weaker sections are a national disgrace", the prime minister said.
      The question is: how can this noble sentiment at the highest level be
      translated into specific and effective action? Perhaps this is the apt
      moment to search for the answer, while Khairlanji is still fresh in
      our memory. The government could begin by rectifying the obvious
      weaknesses in the Prevention of Atrocities Act.

      The gravest weakness is the provision in Section 14 to "specify for
      each district a court of session to be a special court to try the
      offences under this Act". Mere specification or designation of a court
      of session as a special court is meaningless and will not serve the
      stated purpose of "speedy trial". This is why atrocity trials drag on
      for years, mostly petering out in acquittals. The latest example is
      the acquittal of all 32 accused in a gruesome case of the burning of
      eight dalits to death in Kambalapalli village in Kolar district of
      Karnataka in March 2000.

      This Section needs amendments to provide for the establishment in each
      district of a special court of session exclusively to try only
      atrocities under this Act; supported by an exclusive special
      investigating officer and exclusive special public prosecutor under
      Section 15 for the speedy investigation and effective prosecution of
      atrocity cases alone.

      It is common practice to nullify good provisions by the simple
      expedient of not selecting the right individuals. In line with Dr.
      Ambedkar's warning in his Constituent Assembly address of November 4,
      1948, a specific new Section 15 A should inter-alia prescribe the
      appointment of these judges, as well as special investigating officers
      and special public prosecutors from panels prepared on the basis of
      their record of and reputation for upholding SC and ST rights.

      The Act was a pioneer in terming and defining certain offences of real
      experience along with importing applicable IPC offences. But to fill
      in the gaps, it is necessary to insert as atrocities the offences of
      social and economic boycott, occupation of cultivable government land
      by ineligible non-SCT persons, non-payment of statutory wages and
      giving toxic substances as wages in kind to SC and ST agricultural
      labourers, and preventing elections to SC or ST-reserved posts and
      interfering with the normal functioning of SC and ST presidents of
      panchayats and other local bodies.

      There is one exception to the PM's otherwise correct characterisation
      of the provisions of the POA Act as being stronger than those of IPC.
      The IPC provides for the death sentence for murder, but there is no
      provision for the death sentence in the POA Act. Thereby, an SC or ST
      murder convict can be sentenced to death under the IPC; but a
      non-SC/non-ST convicted of murder of a SC or ST person cannot be
      sentenced to death under POA Act. We are thus back to Manusmriti,
      which provides different p

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