|Panchmahals Dalit group which submitted memorandum|
Taking strong exception to cancellation of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) license to well-known Gujarat-based Dalit rights NGO Navsarjan Trust, Dalit activists from several districts in Gujarat have sent memorandums to President Pranab Kumar Mukherjee terming the step an effort to “bully the organization into silence, motivated by an anti-Dalit agenda.”
Also calling it “political vendetta against Dalit advocates”, “abhorrent” and “anti-democratic”, one such memorandum, also submitted to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh, says, it is a “selective targeting” of an organization which advocates “on behalf of the Dalit people”. The government step, it adds, has also taken away the funds which supported 80 activists’ job to carry out social work.
Asserting that Navsarjan has “no hidden agenda”, as it has “aimed at alleviating the Dalit community people from “historical” poverty, untouchability, and caste-based violence by seeking remedies provided by the Indian constitution and laws, the memorandum asks the President the Prime Minister to “restore” the FCRA license.
Submitted by members of the Dalit Human Rights Committee, Panchmahal, under the leadership of senior activist Rohit Manu at the district collector's office in Godhra, the memorandum takes strong exception to the government view that the NGO’s activities are aimed to “prejudicially affect” harmony between “religious, racial, social, linguistic, regional groups, castes or communities”.
Insisting that nothing can be father from the truth, the memorandum says, the Dalit community in “Gujarat and beyond” have come to depend on Navsarjan to provide “essential services and advocacy on behalf of our uniquely vulnerable community”.
The memorandum recalls, a major success, thanks to one such legal intervention which went right up to the Supreme Court, was the Government of India forced to come up with a legally-binding time-bound programme of action to end the inhuman practice of manual scavenging and rehabilitate thousands of them across India.
The result, the memorandum says, was that, recently, Parliament amended the anti-manual scavenging law, making it more stringent, and the Supreme Court asking states to provide Rs 10 lakh each to compensate the death of each manhole worker.
All this, according to the memorandum, went alongside organizing members of the Dalit community, educating them not to tolerate caste-based and gender-based violence, use of the law to fight untouchability practice, and be educated to overcome inhibitions of caste and poverty.
Giving examples of educational involvement of Navsarjan, the memorandum says, it set up three primary schools (grade 5-8) in Sami (Patan district), Rayka (Ahmedabad district) and Katariya (Surendranagar district), where mostly school dropouts and belonging to Dalit and other backward communities, have been studying.
As part of its educational programme, it began a “No plastic, No caste” campaign, the memorandum says, adding, Navsarjan also set up 500 Bhimshalas, whose objective is to motivate children not to drop out of schools, even providing them library facilities and other educational material.
Then, the memorandum says, Navsarjan set up a vocational school for Dalit students to learn new skills, where over the last 13 years the school more than 8,000 girls and boys have graduated. Having a labour success rate of 82.5 when last measured, the vocational school has now has been registered as a separate organization, Dalit Shakti Kendra, it adds.