People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
September 02, 2007
CPI(M) Organises Convention on Dalit Rights
THE Delhi state committee of the CPI(M) held a state level convention on dalit rights on July 29, to identify, highlight and raise the specific problems faced by dalits in Delhi. The convention also focussed on the need to ensure implementation of different social justice schemes by the state government.
This convention in Delhi was held in the backdrop of the CPI(M)’s first all-India convention on dalit rights, which took place in New Delhi on February 22, 2006. One recalls that the all-India convention had reached a specific understanding of the nature and scope of the caste problems, adopted a comprehensive resolution on it and formulated an all-India charter of demands for dalit rights.
The recent convention noted how the dalit population living in Delhi is subjected to varied forms of discrimination in terms of the basic human development requirements like education, health, basic civic amenities like electricity, water and proper sewage system. While a perception of discrimination and deprivation is widespread among dalits, there is no serious effort on part of the Delhi state government for the implementation of various schemes or to further analyse the socio-economic and educational conditions of the dalits in Delhi. Due to this, there is simmering discontent among dalits against the Congress and BJP --- the two mainstream ruling class parties in Delhi.
The convention was inaugurated by CPI(M) Polit Bureau member K Varadha Rajan and was conducted by a five-member presidium consisting of Vijender, Natthu Prasad, Puran Chand, Sonia and Brahmajit Singh. The convention started with a condolence note in the memory of the eight CPI(M) members who were brutally killed by the police in the ongoing agitation for land in Andhra Pradesh.
In his inaugural address, Varadha Rajan said that ensuring justice for the dalits is among the foremost tasks of the communist movement in India and that the CPI(M) party has been paying special attention to this question through initiatives and struggles in recent years. Commenting on the discrimination faced by dalits in various parts of India, he said in Andhra Pradesh the dalits are subjected to 57 types of atrocities based on the evil caste system. In a district like Tuticorin, dalits are not allowed to rear dogs, they can only rear bitches, so that there is no intermingling of dalit dogs with upper caste dogs. There are instances of the use of ‘three-tumbler’ system in some tea shops in Tamilnadu, where shudras (dalits) use the third glass while the first and second are kept there for persons from upper castes and backward castes respectively. These are classic examples of an overarching effect and deep penetration of the pernicious caste system in our society. The speaker emphasised that the task before the communists is to fight against such anti-dalit discrimination in the most sincere and serious way.
Varadha Rajan further stressed that, historically, the status of dalits in the Hindu caste system had been such that they were entirely out of the fold of the caste system. They were avarnas, i e outcaste, and were denied the right to have any societal interaction or relationship with others while, on the other hand, upper castes and other castes did have all types of socio-economic relationships between them. The caste system derives its sanction from religion; that is why it is so difficult to challenge it.
While explaining the pathetic socio-economic conditions of dalits, Varadha Rajan stated that, in the recent past, anger among the dalits has been growing at a fast pace and the 15th congress of the CPI(M) had acknowledged this increasing dalit anger all over the country. Keeping it in view, the CPI(M) is organising state level conventions all over the country with the aim of advancing dalit rights. The party is committed to bringing about real changes in the lives of dalit people while, in contrast, the bourgeois-landlord parties are not keen to bring about any effective change in it. Finally, the speaker emphasised that gone are the days when the destitute and downtrodden dalits would helplessly wait for the God to save them from the upper castes’ atrocities. Today, they are prepared to fight for their rights and our movement must give this fight a momentum so that wherever there is caste oppression, the RED FLAG mobilises the masses against caste.
The convention was held in the B T Ranadive Bhavan which was packed to its capacity. Addressing the convention, Vijender, chairman of the dalit sub-committee of the CPI(M), said that before formulating the draft charter of demands placed in the convention for discussion, the party had organised various meetings in different parts of Delhi, especially in dalit populated areas, in order to understand the specific challenges faced by dalits. Such areas were suffering from widespread shortage of basic facilities like electricity, toilets, water, sewage system etc. Dalit children are often denied admissions in municipal schools, despite having the right to reservation under the Indian constitution. Even the scholarship scheme for dalit students is not implemented seriously, with students being denied either the actual amount or the scholarship itself. Criticising the state government ruled by the Congress, he said that it had failed to implement many of its own schemes for dalit upliftment. The self-employment scheme, which was planned to cater to 54,000 people, has benefitted only 14,000. Rs 1600 crore were sanctioned for construction of public toilets in dalit localities, out of which not a single penny was spent. Such instances only show the apathy and antipathy of the state government towards dalits, and the treatment of dalits as a mere vote bank. While deploring the government inactivity in regard to the public distribution system, he said ration shops in many dalit localities were simply not functioning for months. Delhi Police is also seriously biased against dalits, with cases of highhandedness being very common.
During the day-long convention, close to 40 delegates spoke about the problems of their community in areas like Kabir Nagar, Holi Kala, Hari Nagar, Sonia Vihar, Mehram Nagar, Karol Bagh, Ambedkar Nagar, Metro Nagar, Metro Vihar, Bagrindi, and in NCR areas like NOIDA, Faridabad and Ghaziabad. Among them were people from different walks of life, ranging from old people to youth of 20 to 30 years in age, to teenagers and women. Teachers and students also spoke about their struggles on dalit issues.
The convention culminated with a firm resolution about launching protracted struggles and movements against caste oppression and against the customs and practices which strengthen the caste system.