Friday, July 08, 2016

Gujarat activists' note favours Xaviers NGO ad seeking upper caste sweeper, says it's perfectly constitutional

Prasad Chacko
By Our Representative
The recent attack on a well-known NGO functioning within Ahmedabad's St Xavier's College campus, Human Development Research Centre (HDRC), allegedly by saffron youths in “protest” against the advertisement for a sweeper's post to be chosen preferably from among among dominant castes, is all set to acquire a fresh spin.
A daft "solidarity" note circulated for endorsement among fellow travelers by several senior Gujarat-based activists in favour of the HDRC and its director Prasad Chacko, who was the main target of attack by saffron supporters, has declared that the controversial advertisement “does not violate any law of the land”.
Those who have sought endorsement are senior of activists of well-known NGOs -- Jitendra Rathod, Nayan Patel, Geeta Oza, Hozefa Ujjaini, Brinda Pancholi, and Vijay Parmar. The signatories have not said whether they have sought support in individual capacity or as office bearers of their respective NGOs.
Seeking views on it the note "supports" the HDRC claim that the advertisement was not “intended to hurt anyone’s feelings, but to promote constitutional values and provisions ensuring access to equal opportunity for all; especially in the occupations being forced to specific communities based on their social and caste identity.”
The draft note, which is likely to be made public on July 11 after a wider endoresement, has sought support amidst continued threats by “many individuals and groups” to file complaint under section 153A of IPC against the HDRC and Chacko, with an application having already been submitted to the Gujarat University Police Station in this regards.
“In addition to that many have given notice for clarification and public apology to be given by the HDRC”, the draft note says.
Referring to the contents of the advertisement – which was put up on the notice board of the HDRC on April 6, nearly one-and-a-half months before the saffron attack actually took place – the note finds nothing wrong with the identification of castes for the selection of a sweeper, Brahmins, Rajputs, Patels, Banias, Jains, Pathan, Syed, Syrian Christian, etc.
The draft note stands in sharp contrast to the view expressed India's well-known Dalit rights activist Martin Macwan, who said in a recent blog that one cannot hope to talk of “annihilation of caste” (a phrase used by Dr DR Ambedkar) by naming castes the way the HDRC did. Macwan has been a key architect in India in the fight against manual scavenging and caste-based occupation.
Even as saying that “the names of communities highlighted in the bracket were as instances and not specifying that they seek people from those specific communities only”, the draft note insists, this was done actually to “promote the principles of equality guaranteed by the Constitution.”
“Appreciating” the initiative taken up by the HDRC and its director for bringing up the “most pertinent issue in public discourse and challenging the systemic practices of inequality upfront”, the draft note says, the activists would to “continue to support such initiatives in future.” However, the draft note regrets, there is an “absence of many human rights activists and groups” in this support, as a result of which “the most pertinent issue of human dignity, equality and rights” has turned into an “issue of caste-based discrimination.”
The draft note also regrets that even “secular individuals and organizations” failed to appreciate the actual framework of the advertisement. While they seemed to join hands to support the HDRC, largely “Dalit rights activists and organizations conglomerate came together”, it adds.
The draft note says, “It is sad that, apart from the so-called upper caste organizations, some of the marginalized and minority community organizations have imbibed this social evil of caste-based discrimination, especially of Muslim and Parsi community.”
This, the draft note says, “is evident from the fact that community leaders/ organizations from these communities have joined the protest and sent memorandum/ complaints to the HDRC directly or via different mediums”.

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