Monday, August 08, 2016

Carcass removal by Dalits in Gujarat sanctioned by law: Top activist tells PM it is "a caste-based forced labour"

A Dalit skinning a dead cow removes plastic from the body
By Our Representative
In a major revelation, Navsarjan Trust executive director Manjula Pradeep has said that responsibility for removal of animal carcasses, including those of cows, has for long been the responsibility of the social justice committees in Gujarat's villages, which are headed by a Dalit or a tribal, suggesting the caste-based occupation is sanctioned by the state.
Pointing out that this has also been allowed by a state law, the Gujarat Panchayat Act, 1993, Pradeep, in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has wondered whether this is not against the “rights ensured in the Constitution of India”, and why should it not be equated with “imposing caste-based forced labour.”
The issue has been raised close on the heels of the controversy surrounding cow vigilantes bashing up four Dalit youths in Gujarat's Una town on July 11 for skinning a dead cow. A caste-based occupation of Rohits (chamars), experts consider the removal of animal carcasses part of untouchability practice in rural Gujarat.
Agreeing with Modi that these vigilantes have opened shops in the country and 80 per cent of cow protectors are anti-social elements, the letter asks, “You have advised to make dossier about them, but how many shops of the cow protectors were closed when you were chief minister?”
Manjula Pradeep
The letter, which raises a large number of issues facing Dalits following Modi “breaking” his silence on the cow vigilantes attacking the Dalit youths, wonders why did he remain silent when when the Gujarat police open fired on Dalits of Thangadh, “using AK-47, killing three innocent Dalit youth, two of them minors”.
Pointing out that when the incident took place (September 22-23, 2012), Modi was just 55 km away in Limbdi town addressing Swami Vivekanand Yuva Vikas yatra. Pradeep asks, “Why was your compassion for Dalits absent then?”
Referring to Modi's address in Hyderabad, where he said that cow vigilantes should better shoot him than shoot his Dalit brothers or sisters, Pradeep says, “An investigation a report on Thangadh was submitted to you by Sanjay Prasad, IAS, to the state home department on May 1, 2013 but no further action is taken until now.”
“The accused police in the Thangadh incident are moving around and the CID crime has filed C-summary in two cases. Despite of this why are you keeping silence?”, the letter queries.
Referring to the Navsarjan Trust report “Understanding Untouchability”, released in 2010, which says there is discrimination against Dalits in majority of the 1,459 villages surveyed. Pradeep says, instead of accepting the findings, he condemned it and asked the CEPT University to prepare a parallel report, which called untouchability in Gujarat a matter of perceptions.
“For past two years, the Gujarat government has not taken any crucial steps to abolish untouchability in Gujarat. You have failed to fulfill the responsibility as per the Constitution of India and you have not uttered a single word to end untouchability against Dalits”, the letter says, wondering where had his “compassion gone”.
Other issues raised in the letter include Rs 5,550 crore, allocated for Dalits' development having remained unspent in the budget, failure to fill up 40,000 government jobs meant for Dalits, Adivasis and OBCs, failure to enact a law for reservation of Dalits and tribals in public and private sectors and ensuring its effective implementation, and so on.

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