Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Dalits face social boycott in North Gujarat village, attacked following dispute on irrigation water

Villagers facing social boycott at the Patel district
collector's office
By Our Representative
In a fresh incident of social boycott in North Gujarat, the dominant castemen of Ganjisar village of Santalpur taluka, Patan district, have passed an unusual resolution imposing heavy fines on those who maintain any type of social relations with the fellow Dalit villagers. The social boycott was imposed, suggests a representation handed over to different level of district and state officials, following a dispute on irrigation water between the Dalit and Choudhury Patel farmers.
According to sources in the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), there have been so far as many as 77 cases of social boycott of Dalits in as many villages. Even NHRC chairman KG Balakrishnan has is learnt to have taken strong exception to the high rate of social boycott of Dalits during his past meetings with officials of the Gujarat government. A copy of the representation has been forwarded to the NHRC also.
The dominant caste resolution, which was passed following a meeting of members of elders of the dominant castes of the village, said that anyone who is found talking with a Dalit would be fined Rs 2,000; anyone who is found to be providing transport facility to a Dalit would be fined Rs 10,000; any shopkeeper found providing flour grinding facility to a Dalit would be fined Rs 10,000; any shopkeeper found to be selling any item to a Dalit would be fined Rs 10,000; and any barber who allows hairdressing to a Dalit would be fined Rs 10,000.
It all began on March 22, when Dalit farmers objected to Choudhary Patel farmers seeking to “violate” an agreement between the two sections. The Dalits own a borewell, from which they supply irrigation water to nearby farms. Under the agreement, those who get irrigation water from the borewell should, in turn, hand over one-third of the harvested crop to the Dalit farmers as payment. And, the crop should be brought to the place where the borewell is situated for distribution.
However, a few of the Choudhury Patels farmers, who produced a highly valued cash crop, jeera (cumin), refused to bring crop near the borewell. And when the Dalit farmers objected pointing out that this was a violation of the agreement, the dominant castemen quarreled with them, said Dalit rights NGO Navsarjan Trust’s senior activist Kirit Rathod, who works in North Gujarat as a social worker.
“Things reached such a point that the Choudhary Patels lethally attacked three of the Dalit farmers, who were badly injured. They had to be taken to Radhanpur civil hospital, where they are being treated”, Rathod added.
Things did not stop here. “The Choudhury Patels, who rule the roost in the village, and passed a resolution three days later imposing social boycott on the Dalits, which continues to this date”, Rathod said, adding, “Worse, instead of bringing the culprits to book, the local police is seeking a compromise in favour of the Choudhury Patels.”
The Dalits form a minuscule minority in the village – just about five families -- as against 50 Choudhary Patel households, 150 Thakore households, 50 Rabari households, 100 Prajapati households, 30 Brahmin households, 25 Raval households, 15 Nai households, and five Thakkar households.
In a 10-point demand put forward before the officialdom, the representation demands that immediate steps should be taken to arrest those who attacked the Dalit farmers and a case of attempt to murder (Section 307 of the criminal procedure code) should be instituted against them. 
Pleading for immediate police protection, the representation also asks the cops to register a case under the anti-atrocities law against those who provoked the social boycott. The representation also demands free transportation to boys and girls who go to study outside the village.

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