Monday, October 20, 2008

Non Violent Hindus - 5

Yunus Sidira wrote:

Aamir Ji

Thanks for the painstaking answer. But the fundamental issues remain unresolved. If any religion divides people, it is not religion.

Dear Sir,

Would you like to throw some light on Caste System in Vedantic Religion which is being practiced in India as mentioned below:

"The Indian government tried for a year and a half to deny that caste discrimination is a form of racial discrimination. But as a result of this conference, even the Secretary-General of the United Nations has acknowledged the gravity of work and descent-based discrimination, and India will have a hard time from now on avoiding international scrutiny."

India: Spotlight on Caste Discrimination

(Durban, September 11, 2001) -- Human Rights Watch said today that caste discrimination is now firmly on the international human rights agenda due to the efforts of Dalit activists at the World Conference Against Racism. The conference concluded Saturday in Durban, South Africa.



A Report by Human Rights Watch for the United Nations World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.



IV. BACKGROUND "Untouchability" and Segregation

Earthquake in Gujarat: Caste and its Fault-Lines

Caste and Marriage

Caste and Labor

Debt Bondage and Slavery

Caste and Socio-Economic Disparities

Access to Education

Access to Land

Political Representation and Political Rights

Physical and Economic Retaliation

Caste and Gender

Caste and the South Asian Diaspora

Failure to Implement Domestic and International Law V. CONCLUSION

VI. Acknowledgments


Khairlanji Atrocity

Khairlanji is a village in Mohadi Taluka, Bhandara District

About Khairlanji Village

Sequence of event

Long dispute for rights on the land For 15 years no basic facilities were provide Immediate cause:

Quarrel with Siddhartha Gajbhiye

Caste Hindus arrested as Surekha gave witness

Caste Hindus released on bail

They go to Dhusala village to beat Siddhartha

He is not found

Three four tractors full of caste Hindus attack the Bhotmange family
They drag Surekha, Priyanka. Sudhir and Roshan out of their hut
Stripped naked Paraded naked in the village Brother asked to have sex with his sister


The Price of Do Bigha Zameen

Nov 04 , 2006

Surekha Bhotmange, 45: raped, murdered

Priyanka Bhotmange, 17: raped, murdered

Roshan Bhotmange, 23: murdered

Sudhir Bhotmange, 21: murdered

Surekha and Priyanka were stripped, paraded naked, beaten with bicycle chains, axes and bullock-cart pokers. They were gang-raped until they died. Some raped them even after that

A Maharashtra village serves up ‘moral justice’ by gang raping and lynching a dalit family. That didn’t merit front page news in 21st-century-10-percent-growth-rate India. Shivam Vij reports

On September 3, Siddharth Gajbhiye finally paid the price for helping dalits in a clutch of villages in Bhandara district near Nagpur in Maharashtra. A dalit himself, Gajbhiye is a police patil, an associate of the police hired on an honorarium, and has political connections in the Congress. This gave him some leverage to be of help to the sprinkling of dalit households who lived in constant fear of the upper castes. One such family was that of Surekha Bhotmange, 45, who tilled her five-acre plot in Kherlanji village, along with her husband Bhaiyyalal, growing cotton and rice. In 1996, two acres had been taken away as ‘easement area’ to build a road, so that neighbouring farmers, who belong to the Powar and Kalar upper castes, could take their tractors across to other villages. Now they wanted more of their land for a water pathway, and Gajbhiye was helping Surekha resist that, despite allegations that he was doing so because he had sexual relations with her. Gajbhiye and Bhotmange were in fact cousins, belonging to the Mahar caste, the same as Ambedkar’s, and were practising Buddhists in the Ambedkerite tradition.

On September 3, a mob beat up Gajbhiye, the ostensible reason being his alleged illicit relationship with Surekha Bhotmange. Gajbhiye filed a police complaint against 15 men from Kherlanji village, 12 of whom were arrested. Surekha signed on the FIR as one of the witnesses and identified the 12 in a police parade. Twenty-six days later, on September 29, as soon as the 12 men were released on bail, they were taken away in a tractor by their relatives. They got drunk and went to the Bhotmanges’ hut threatening to finish off the entire family. Then they went looking for Gajbhiye and his brother Rajan, an engineering student. On not being able to find them, the drunken group returned to the Bhotmanges’ hut and broke down the door. It was 5.40pm, Surekha was preparing the evening meal and the head of the family, Bhaiyyalal, was not at home. They dragged out Surekha, their 17-year-old daughter Priyanka, and two sons, 23-year-old Roshan and 21-year-old Sudhir. Although Roshan was blind and Sudhir a graduate, they not only helped with the farming but also brought home extra money by working as labourers. Priyanka was more ambitious — a Class xii topper and an ncc cadet, she wanted to join the Army. Her mother had recently bought her a bicycle. But all dreams came to an end in a few harrowing hours.

The mob didn’t realise that Bhaiyyalal Bhotmagne and Siddharth’s brother Rajan were just a stone’s throw from their hut and had seen the four victims being dragged away to the village chaupal, Priyanka strapped to a bullock cart. By now, men allegedly from the entire village of about 150 Powar and Kalar families had collected. Some shouted to the sarpanch to allow them to sexually assault the women. They raped the women and killed all four, even as their womenfolk looked on, mute spectators to a form of justice reserved for castes lower than theirs. One woman, Sudha Dhenge, reportedly did protest but was slapped into silence. She now says she was never there. Surekha and Priyanka were stripped, paraded naked, beaten black and blue with bicycle chains, axes and bullock cart pokers. They were publicly gang raped until they died. Some raped them even after that, and finally, sticks and rods were shoved into their genitals. In the meantime, Sudhir managed to contact the police from his mobile phone, but his phone had been smashed. Its pieces are now circumstantial evidence. Roshan and Sudhir were beaten up, their genitals mutilated, faces disfigured and their bodies tossed in the air, before they lay dead on the ground. Hiding behind a hut, Bhaiyyalal helplessly watched his family’s gruesome end. There was no one to call for help. Kherlanji had only two Mahar families; the rest were either perpetrators or spectators. An hour later, a village meeting was called and a diktat issued: no one was to say a word about the massacre.

Siddharth Gajbhiye called the Andhalgaon police station, some six kms away, at 6.15pm, asking for help. As a frightened Bhaiyyalal escaped to another village to save his life, the four bodies were thrown at different places in the periphery of the village. Head Constable Baban Mesharam reached Kherlanji at 8:30pm and got wind of the incident, but did not follow official police protocol to register the report. The next day, when Bhaiyyalal Bhotmange went to the police station and filed an FIR, SHO Siddheshwar Bharne did not believe him. It was only when the police patrol started flashing reports of the discovery of mutilated dead bodies on the wireless the next day that he filed an FIR. Constable Meshram and SHO Bharne both stand suspended.

Photographs of the bodies of Surekha and Priyanka taken by the police showed sticks and rods in their genitals. By the time they reached the post-mortem table, the sticks had disappeared. A gruesome photograph of Priyanka Bhotmange’s body, with just a piece of cloth covering her genitals, is not being printed by Tehelka. The post-mortem report by Dr AJ Shende on September 30 said that there had been no rape. “Doctors were managed and the police bribed,” Rashtrapal Narnaware, Surekha’s nephew, alleged in a statement to the fact-finding committee of the Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS), a regional farmers’ organisation. The bodies were later exhumed and the report of a second post-mortem is awaited. Bhandara’s police superintendent Suresh Sagar says that only if the post-mortem establishes rape can he include the charge in his investigation. The VJAS is pushing for a third post-mortem as the due procedure specified by the NHRC has not been followed, and medical evidence of rape may never be established.

Thirty-eight Kherlanji men are in jail as accused, but Kishore Tiwari, president of the VJAS, says that some of the main perpetrators are still free due to political pressure. Apart from various sections of the IPC, the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989, has also been applied by the police. “In cases where a mob is involved, the Atrocities Act has it that the entire village could be fined to the tune of Rs 10-20 lakh,” says civil rights lawyer Colin Gonsalves. The VJAS claims that there is an attempt to cover up the incident, and has filed a case in the Bombay High Court against the state police. “For years, Surekha had been trying to file a case against the grabbing of the two acres of land,” says VJAS lawyer Vinod Tiwari, “but the police never filed the FIR.” VJAS president Kishore Tiwari first read about the incident in the rural Vidarbha supplements of the Marathi press, which blamed it on Surekha’s ‘illicit relationship’ with Siddharth. Tiwari e-mailed journalists all over India and managed to get some Mumbai newspapers to report the massacre, but his e-mails to Delhi-based journalists were ignored.

On October 2, when lakhs of Buddhists from all over the world had converged in Nagpur to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Dhammakranti — Ambedkar’s conversion to Buddhism — the organisers kept quiet about the massacre lest the issue go out of hand in such a large gathering. The Maharashtra government has paid Bhaiyyalal Bhotmange a compensation of Rs 4.5 lakhs, although according to the Atrocities Act the compensation should be Rs 2 lakh for every member of the family killed. All Bhaiyyalal wants is for the perpetrators to be hanged.

MAHARASHTRA BURNING (September - December 2006)

An atrocity left unpunished and a hero’s statue desecrated drive untouchable masses into the streets across India’s second-most populous state.

September 29: Four members of an untouchable family are horrifically lynched by men and women of the dominant caste in the tiny village of Khairlanji.

November 6: After over a month of negligence by the police and inaction from the state government, mass protests by untouchables break out in Nagpur and spread throughout the region.

November 28: A statue of the Independence-era untouchable leader B. R. Ambedkar is beheaded in the city of Kanpur.

November 29-30: Untouchable youth take to the streets in spontaneous protests across the state. In Bombay large groups target public transportation, emptying buses and a train and setting them on fire.

The rape/murder of the Bhotmange family in Khairlanji village occurred on September 29, but it was only at the end of October that the story first broke in the national press, under the ironic headline “Just another rape story.” There are hundreds of atrocities against untouchables and over a thousand rapes of untouchable women officially reported every year in Maharashtra state alone. And how many go unreported? As the Khairlanji lynching itself might have. If it hadn’t been for two surviving blood relatives who secretly witnessed this public massacre, the case would never have been registered with the police: even now, no one else will talk.

So why did the news of this particular horror spread mainly by word of mouth throughout the region and across the state? Why this time did rage over the incident simmer for two full months before finally boiling over in an unprecedented statewide uprising of the untouchable masses that took India by surprise?

Part of it may be the fact that the Bhotmanges were not quite a typical untouchable family. Although poor enough to live in a hut with a low, thatched roof and a dirt floor, they owned a few acres of land that gave them a little independence. Smruti Koppikar wrote in Outlook India (December 5) of the murdered woman of the family:

The 40-something Surekha tilled her land till it yielded something, anything. She put her children through school and college. Her daughter was reading Political Science and Sociology--no mean feat for a Dalit girl in a back-of-the-beyond village. OBC men had, on several occasions, tried to usurp the land and drive the family out of the village but Surekha--more than her husband Bhaiyyalal--had stood up to the men and their machinations. The financial independence, the education, the aspirations, the standing up to pressure--all must have made them special targets for dominant-caste bigots.

The Bhotmanges were Mahars, historically a relatively advanced untouchable caste. Traditionally village servants, Mahars later served in large numbers in the British colonial army. The unusual exposure this gave them encouraged aspirations far above their social and ritual status, and it was out of this community that the untouchable leader B. R. Ambedkar emerged. The Bhotmanges’ forebears, along with many fellow Mahars and other untouchables throughout India, had followed Ambedkar at the end of his life in renouncing Hinduism and converting to Buddhism to escape the stigma of their caste--with all the success that their fate implies.

India: End Caste Bias in Tsunami Relief

The Indian government should ensure that tsunami victims receive assistance in an equitable manner without caste or religious bias, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch has received credible reports of discrimination in tsunami-stricken areas against Dalit (so-called untouchables) communities by the authorities as well as by some aid groups and local communities.

The government should immediately ensure that there is equitable and unbiased rehabilitation by including Dalit rights activists, both male and female, in rehabilitation committees at all levels.

Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch called on the Indian government to make all efforts to counter caste or religious discrimination throughout the entire post-tsunami process of relief, rehabilitation and redevelopment.

“In the aftermath of the tsunami, the Indian government should try to help Dalits who may be excluded from equitable relief and employment opportunities,” said Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch. “The government should immediately ensure that there is equitable and unbiased rehabilitation by including Dalit rights activists, both male and female, in rehabilitation committees at all levels.”

Nearly 10,000 people died in India in the tsunami on December 26, most of them in Tamil Nadu state. Most of the immediate victims were from fishing communities, perceived as coming from higher castes, who live along the coast. Dalits who live further inland lost their livelihood and access to water because their wells were filled with seawater.

According to many press reports and an on-site investigation by the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR), a highly respected Indian organization, some higher-caste fishing communities refused to share emergency shelter and rations with the Dalits. The NCDHR investigation also documented incidents in which authorities in parts of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu provided Dalits with less relief and support than other victims. Dalit areas have been the last to have electricity and water supplies restored during rehabilitation efforts. NCDHR also cited allegations that officials are discriminating in providing financial assistance to the families of deceased Dalits.

“The government should ensure that all government and NGO activities take steps to combat caste discrimination in the longer-term reconstruction efforts,” said Adams. “India has excellent legislation to prevent caste-based discrimination, but it should implement these laws to avoid adding the problems of caste-discrimination to the misery caused by the tsunami.”

About Police.

India: Probe Police Attacks on ‘Untouchables’

(New York, July 10, 2004) -- The Indian government should immediately launch a full investigation into allegations that police used excessive force against Dalits (or “untouchables”) who tried to participate in a religious ceremony in Tamil Nadu last week, Human Rights Watch said today.

" It seems that Dalits are still considered untouchable for religious purposes, but not when it comes to the police using force against them. There should be an immediate investigation into this violent incident, and all those responsible should be prosecuted.

Sam Zarifi, deputy director for Human Rights Watch’s Asia Division

Police used excessive force and targeted Dalits while responding to a riot at the Kandadevi religious festival on July 1, according to the Dalit Human Rights Monitoring Program. At least 20 Dalits were injured, eight requiring hospitalization.

“It seems that Dalits are still considered untouchable for religious purposes, but not when it comes to the police using force against them,” said Sam Zarifi, deputy director for Human Rights Watch’s Asia Division. “There should be an immediate investigation into this violent incident, and all those responsible should be prosecuted.”

Some one thousand Dalits had joined a crowd of 6,000 gathered for the Kandadevi festival. The Dalits wanted to take part in the ceremony, during which Hindus derive religious honor from manually towing a chariot-like structure holding a religious idol. A riot broke out when upper-caste Hindus forcefully barred Dalits from participating in the ritual. In the ensuing melee, the two sides resorted to throwing stones at each other.

According to the Dalit Human Rights Monitoring Program, the police reacted to the protest by targeting the Dalit demonstrators with excessive force. Members of the Monitoring Program who investigated the incident said police had used batons and rifle butts to beat protestors on the face, back, chest and buttocks.

Witnesses told the Monitoring Program that some policemen had also used racist language to abuse the Dalit protestors, particularly focusing on Dalit women. Some policemen allegedly told the protesters, “We will not rest until you are killed.”

Police prevented a fact-finding team, which had planned to monitor the ceremony, from reaching the site, raising concerns that officials had planned their violent response to the protest.

“The Indian government needs to send a message that it will not tolerate police brutality, especially when it is coupled with racist, anti-Dalit discrimination,” Zarifi said. “It’s particularly troubling that independent monitors were kept away from the event. The best thing to do now is to conduct a transparent and fair investigation that shows that the Indian government does not favor one caste over another.”


The Kandadevi festival had become the focus of tension because Dalits had been excluded by upper-caste Hindus from the ceremonies for nearly a century. Since 1947, after India’s independence, Dalits have been attempting to reclaim that right and in 1999 won a court order stating that all Hindus—including Dalits—were entitled to pull the chariot.

In 2002 despite the court order, the local government failed to ensure that Dalits could participate. Last year a Dalit district chief attempted to work out a peaceful solution, but protests by upper-caste groups eventually led to cancellation of the ceremony. This year, as part of a compromise attempt between different groups, only 10 Dalits were selected at random for the rope-pulling festival, despite protests from the Dalit community.

The Indian constitution bans discrimination against “untouchables.” Dalit groups, as well as Human Rights Watch, have repeatedly urged the Indian government and the state governments to train district officials and police personnel charged with enforcing India’s anti-discrimination laws. At the same time, the national and state governments should launch an effective public awareness campaign regarding the legal prohibition of “untouchability” and other forms of discrimination and violence against Dalits.

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