People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


Vol. XXXIII

No. 30

July 26, 200

UTTAR PRADESH

 

Dalits’ Benefactors Need To Introspect

 

Madhu Garg

 

IT appears that the UP chief minister, Ms Mayawati, has got quite desperate after she failed to get the desired outcome from the 15th Lok Sabha polls, and is now talking of returning to her original dalit agenda. In a high-level meeting on May 25, she told the high police and administrative officers that no callousness in implementing the Scheduled Castes & Scheduled Tribes Act would be tolerated. Also that whenever a case of anti-dalit violence takes place, the director general of police (DGP) would himself go to the spot to investigate, even if it involves a huge expenditure from the state’s exchequer.

 

UNBECOMING

COMMENT

Obviously, Ms Mayawati has her eyes riveted on the state assembly polls due in 2011. She feels her “dalit vote bank” is somewhere and somehow eroding. On the other hand, the unexpected victory of the Congress party in the recent parliamentary polls has given it tremendous enthusiasm and it feels that it is very close to power in Uttar Pradesh. That explains why the state Congress president, Ms Rita Bahuguna Joshi, dared to make an unbecoming comment against Ms Mayawati in a meeting in Moradabad and forgot to realise that her comment was in fact an attack on dalit women’s rights.

What Ms Joshi did was to make fun of the “compensation” an affected woman would get under the SC-ST Act. Perhaps she does not know that a dalit woman today is at the lowest ladder of the socio-economic hierarchy and that she is an easy target of rape --- a weapon the upper caste people use to “teach a lesson” to her community. The compensation that she gets from the government does help her, to an extent, to fight her case against the powerful; otherwise, she would never be able to raise her head against her tormentors. Though a weak dalit women has yet to undergo numerous ordeals, this compensation does boost her self-confidence to an extent     

There is thus no doubt that Ms Joshi’s comment deserves utmost condemnation --- in severest possible terms.

But Ms Mayawati had had something else in mind. She termed this comment as insulting to a “dalit’s daughter” so that she could get the sympathy from her dalit vote bank. At the same time, she resorted to vindictive politics and used her ruffians to get Ms Joshi’s house burnt in the very presence of the police and administration. This is a shameful act for any democratic system. When this episode evoked strong reaction, the Lucknow police hauled up five innocent boys and they are in jail now, while TV channels clearly showed Jitendra Singh Bablu, a BSP MLA, leading the arsoning mob. Abidi, another BSP leader involved in this vandalism, has been made chairman of the “Ganna Kisan Sansthan” (Sugarcane Farmers Association) with the ranking of a minister of state (MoS). After a written complaint filed by the Congress party, the police did assure that these two names would be added to the FIR, but nothing like this has been done so far.

It is noteworthy that Ms Mayawati had made a similar unbecoming comment against the then chief minister, Mulayam Singh Yadav, following the madrassa rape case in Allahabad two years ago.   

There is nothing new in it. Ms Mayawati always gets incensed whenever she feels that someone is trying to steal into her dalit vote bank. She is beyond herself whenever Rahul Gandhi halts at a dalit’s house for a few minutes.

But the truth is that neither the Congress nor the BSP has any worthwhile plan for a basic change for the better in a dalit’s life. During the about 35 years of its rule in the state, the Congress did not take any concrete step for a fundamental solution to the problems facing the dalit mass. The BJP ruled the state for about eight years in instalments. But its very ideology says that dalits cannot be given equal rights. The painful death of 22 poor dalit women on BJP leader Lalji Tandon’s birthday five years ago is still fresh in the people’s memory.  

 

REALITIES

OF DALIT LIFE

Though the BSP president Ms Mayawati is eager to monopolise dalit support, dalits are still at the margins of society in her regime and often suffer the oppression unleashed by the police and the powerful. In Etawah, some months ago, the police dragged by hair and beat a minor Balmiki girl on the charge of theft. In the same district, the police demolished dalit hutments at the bidding of the local power elite. It later came out that the victims had had the patta for the plots where their hutments stood. A few months back, a dalit woman was stripped naked and made to walk around in a village in Kushinagar district.

In various districts of the state where work under the NREGA is going on, like Sultanpur, Mirzapur, Chitrakoot, Chandauli, Gorakhpur and others, a survey by the Janwadi Mahila Samiti (JMS) found that it is mostly dalit women who are coming forward for this kind of work and they are victims of bungling almost everywhere. Rajwanti, who belongs to Raikal village of Mirzapur district, worked under NREGA for 40 days but did not get her wage. Her family is still unable to have one square meal a day. This is the story of several dalit women in the state.

In the state capital Lucknow, under the very nose of the state government, dalit women are being discriminated against in the “Janani Suraksha Yojana” (Mothers Security Scheme). But when they dare complain against it, the local power elite as well as the hospital staff try to intimidate them. Such women are threatened that they would be beaten up if they go to an upper caste person’s field for defaecation in the morning. Last year, the state government announced a grant of Rs 1500 for every kachcha house destroyed by heavy rains. But the village headmen distributed this relief among their own men. When the JMS surveyed the situation in villages Badakhempur and Asti in Lucknow district, it came out that 48 villagers had received no such money; 35 of them were dalits.

Shriram, a dalit of Bargadi village, shifted to some other place when the rains destroyed his house. But when he came back to the village, he found that a Thakur had occupied his house. He has contacted the area’s police station several times during the last one year, but there has been no action even after a case was registered under the SC-ST Act.

Constituting more than 21 per cent of the state’s population, dalits are still deprived of even minimum amenities like ration, potable water, toilets etc. In many areas even today, dalits are beaten up when they go an upper caste person’s handpump for water, and the police remain mute spectators. Faulty implementation of the panchayati raj system has made the village chiefs quite powerful, and it is through them that the benefits of various governmental schemes reach the rural people. But, barring a few exceptions, these village chiefs are more interested in cornering the entire money or benefits for themselves and their henchmen. They are getting the ration cards issued for their own people under the BPL and Antyodaya quotas as these cards are issued in very limited numbers. A large number of the poor dalits have either no ration cards or APL ration cards.

About 80 per cent of rural dalit women are agricultural workers, strenuously working whole day in the fields for a daily wage of Rs 25 to 35 or five kg of paddy. In the cities, most of dalit women are constrained to work as domestic help in middle class households for a pittance. Their habitations are still deprived of minimum amenities. On the other hand, posing herself as a messiah of the dalit mass, Ms Mayawati is autocratically and cynically wasting crores of rupees on lifeless stones. She has got installed 46 statues of dalit thinkers or leaders, and these include seven of her own. This money could definitely provide at least one pucca room to every dalit family in the state.

Even today, most of the dalit hamlets in the countryside are some distance away from the main habitations. Their kachcha and dilapidated houses get pitch dark as soon as the evening descends. Dalits still stand deaf and dumb before the “Babu Sahebs” of their villages. There is no need to say that, with all their competing claims for being the biggest benefactors of dalit masses, the bourgeois-landlord political parties first of all need to see their own faces in the mirror of the ground realities.