People's Democracy

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


No. 07

February 13, 2011



Dalits Recount Travails in Existing Order


Vinay Dwivedi


I HAVE been a municipality chairperson, and now my wife is the chairperson. I have been active in the district for three decades, first as a student leader and now as a kisan leader. Yet, wherever I go to a village, I have to take a seat at the end of the cot. The upper caste people are not able to say anything if I do not wash my teacup, but they do feel offended. On many occasions, there is an attempt to hurt and weaken me by asking about my caste.


Prem Narayan Mahaur, a leader of the CPI(M) in Bhind district, thus gave went to his sense of pain at a two-day workshop recently organised by the Madhya Pradesh state committee of the party in Bhopal, the state capital, for its dalit cadre. He said even if we do not feel weakened when someone asks our caste, the questioner does feel encouraged that he may try to suppress us. He said not even a dalit MP or MLA, what to talk of a dalit sarpanch (chairperson), can get the street repair work done or a handpump installed in a dalit hamlet. The situation is so dire that doctors of the Bhind district hospital punished a former dalit MLA when his son asked the doctors in a loud voice why they were not attending to his patient. The panchayat secretary in Harichha village beat up a dalit woman and then compelled her to leave the village. In another village, the husband of the chairperson, a dalit woman, told an upper caste person that certification of the latterís application would have to be verified through on-the-spot inspection. The upper caste people then beat this dalit man up and got both his hands chopped.  


Rambabu Jatav from Gwalior said he is a well-known leader of the CPI(M) and his wife has been a member of the district panchayat. Yet, he is unable to sell his ancestral land in a village in Moreina district, measuring five and a half bighas, simple because this plot is surrounded by the plots belonging to upper caste people and hence no one dares come forward to purchase it. Under compulsion, dalit people in all but two villages of the area have sold their lands off and migrated to the nearby cities. 


Senior CPI(M) leader Jagannath Bharati, a member of its state committee, described the situation of caste oppression in Indore. He said Radhakishan Malaviya was a Congress MLA, a Rajya Sabha member and once the state president of the Congress party, but yet his son had to dismount from his horse in Datoda village when Malaviya took his sonís marriage procession there.


Baijnath Pippal from Moreina said quarrels often take place over the presence of a horse or a music band in a dalitís marriage procession. Quite common are the tactics of reaping the crops standing on dalitsí lands, vandalising their houses and stealing their cattle, in order to compel them to give up their lands. More than half of the dalits who had some land 20 years ago are landless now. Cooperative societies too discriminate against these people in providing them fertilisers, seeds or loans, instead of extending them protection. Most of the books they get are out of syllabus. Banks do not open their accounts for long periods --- so much so that the scholarship cheques that they get are often lost or get outdated. The plight of dalit hostels is quite pathetic. Their kitchens have been handed over to contractors. Children do not get the food that is mentioned in the menu. There are no latrines in dalit habitations; in the dark of the night women often go to the railway line to relieve themselves and now and then a woman comes under a running train. Dalit women are subjected to all kinds of atrocities. Elected dalit representatives are not much better either. A dalit woman was elected chairman of the district panchayat, but she has not to date got the car due to her. Whenever government officials visit a village with a dalit sarpanch, the latter is called to the Patelís house. An example of the continuing practice of untouchability is that dalits were not allowed to enter the Basiaya Mata temple when they brought a new dress for the goddess. When this became a hot issue, the CSP intervened and there was a compromise that dalits must hand the cloth over to the pujari of the temple who would then dress the goddess. Dalits were still not allowed to enter the temple.


According to Pappu Ahirwar from Guna district, if the ghada (earthen water-pot) of a dalit accidentally touches that of an upper caste person, the latter breaks his ghada and charges its price from the concerned dalit. Though Guna is the home district of former chief minister Digvijay Singh, the system of a separate water pitcher and separate teacups is still in vogue in the teashop at Painchi village in the district. The same was the situation in Chanchaura village till recently; after protests, dalits now get tea in disposable cups here. Dalit woman donít have the courage to sit down on the floor in presence of an upper caste person.


Narayan Bhaskar from Shahdol said there are separate bathing ghats downstream for dalit masses. Dalit habitation in a village is quite apart from the other houses. Dalits cannot pass in front of a caste Hindu house and have to dismount from their bicycles whenever they come here.


Another activist from Moreina district complained of anti-dalit discrimination in government offices. There one sees separate water pitchers for dalit people. Unions too do not treat dalit employees on an equal footing. The latter still feel a distance between themselves and their leaders.


Balwant Soni from the same district said dalits have not yet got physical possession of the lands for which they got the pattas under dalit agenda. Though the Ladli, Lakshmi and some other schemes extend assistance for a girlís marriage at or after 18 years of age, the harsh fact is that a dalit is compelled to arrange his daughterís marriage at 15 or 14 in order to save her from molestation. He is afraid even of sending his daughters to a school, more so if the school is outside the village.


Kamal Singh from Gwalior said dalit women do not dare to take water from a public handpump till caste Hindu women get their pitchers filled up and go away. Their plight is particularly bad in summers when the water level goes down and handpumps cannot fetch water up.


An activist from Ratlam said the plight of dalit childrenís education is quite pathetic. They are enrolled in schools but there is no arrangement for them to attend classes. Contracts for mid-day meal have been doled out to NGOs which never provide food as per the menu. Though the promise was to disburse the scholarships by November 30, they had not been disbursed by the January end. In private schools, either the dalit scholarship forms are not filled up or the schools themselves devour the money. Authorities demand domicile and other certificates pertaining to as far back as 1950 before issuing a caste certificate. The landless, in particular, are unable to provide the same. Though the government is making a hype of its bicycle donation scheme, it issues only Rs 2,300 to a dalit child for purchasing one, while the least a bicycle costs is Rs 3,000. Similarly, a dalit girl is given Rs 90 for a uniform and Rs 10 for a footwear, but these amounts are totally inadequate for these things. As for books, only a few of them are available; most of them are not. Concerned teachers are penalised if students get these books from the market.


Hanumant Rao from Bhopal said in Khajuri village, only 5 km from the state capital, separate cups and pitchers are there for dalit customers in teashops. In Chhatarpur, Raoís own district, dalits cannot enter a temple. They have to perform a puja from 20 feet away.


Ganesh Ram from Ashok Nagar said dalit streets in villages are never cleaned. Caste Hindus are in possession of the lands that were allotted to dalit people. The sad plight of elected dalit representatives is evident from the fact that while the panchayat secretary and others perpetrated frauds in Sirsi village, the dalit sarpanch was forced to give his thumb impression on the records. Now he has been charged with embezzlement of Rs 1.5 lakh and he will have to sell his land, measuring 5.5 acres, to make the loss good.


Jitendra Riparia from Bhind said there are no latrines in dalit hamlets; liquor shops are of course quite nearby. There are no electricity polls in these hamlets and the inhabitants have to arrange wires for a mile or two to get power. For this too, they have to pay to the caste Hindus. They have also to pay electricity bills of 700 or 800 rupees even while no polls are there.


Vinod from Anooppur said municipal dalit employees are not allowed to enter the office of the municipality except on the salary distribution day. Caste Hindus are driving the vehicles that were given to dalit people under the Anta-Vyavasayi scheme.


Jugal Kishore Pippal presided over the workshop which 33 dalit activists of the party from 13 districts attended.


While deciding to intensify the campaign against caste oppression, the workshop decided to organise a state-level broad-based convention in Bhopal on February 13 on the issue. Before that, all the units of the CPI(M) would organise padayatras in dalit habitations all over the state. Later, one-day conventions of dalit women at the block level will also be organised. A two-day workshop of dalit students will also be planned.