|Under threat: A Navsarjan school in Surendranagar district|
Following US’s powerful daily “The New York Times” objecting to the Modi government cancelling foreign funding license to Gujarat’s topmost Dalit rights organization (click HERE), Navsarjan Trust, another influential daily, “Los Angeles Times” (LAT), has termed the action a part of the wider government “crackdown against civil society” and “dissent.”
Calling the Modi move “politically motivated”, LAT has said, Navsarjan, “an Indian charity”, has “battled caste discrimination for three decades”, but is now being attacked for harming India’s national interest.
Going to the roots of the problem, the daily noted, the non-profit group was stripped of its FCRA license “for organizing protests last summer after seven Dalits were publicly flogged in Una, a town in southern Gujarat, for skinning a cow that had been mauled to death by a lion.”
Pointing to how handling cow carcasses is one of the “many lowly occupations assigned to Dalits by upper-caste Hindus, who regard the animal as sacred”, it added, yet another issue which made the government nervous was the way Navsarjan helped lead a campaign “that forced investigators in August to reopen an inquiry into a 2012 police shooting that killed three young Dalit men.”
LAT said, “The government is particularly sensitive to social unrest in Gujarat, a prosperous coastal state that Modi led until 2014, and is still run by his party”, adding, “The powerful prime minister has held up Gujarat as a model of economic development, but recent protests by Dalits and other marginalized groups have chipped away at that carefully constructed image.”
“In parliamentary debates following the Una beatings”, LAT said, “Opposition lawmakers referred to a landmark 2010 survey that researchers from Navsarjan and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights carried out in 1,589 Gujarat villages.”
It added, “The findings laid bare how many Dalits, who make up 16% of India’s 1.25 billion people, are still treated as subhuman”, quoting Navsarjan founder Martin Macwan as saying,
“This report took all the air out of the so-called ‘Gujarat model’ of development. It showed that development and inequality can coexist.”
Pointing out that the Ministry of Home Affairs’ decision to block Navsarjan's overseas funds, amounting to almost $400,000 annual budget, has forced the non-profit organization to lay off
its 80 staff members, LAT said, it would mean suspending its other charitable works as well, including three schools educating Dalit children.
Other charity works which would be hit included giving help to the likes of Dudhabhai Kalabhai, said LAT. Dudhabhai, it added, was victim of two upper-caste villagers, who found that Dudhabhai had ventured “too close to the temple entrance”, hence they thrashed “the 70-year-old farmer with sticks, hospitalizing him with arm and leg injuries.”
Quoting family members, LAT said, the police in Gujarat “at first refused to take the case seriously”, and it “wasn’t until the human rights group Navsarjan deployed representatives and a lawyer that the assailants were arrested, tried and sentenced to two-year prison terms.”
LAT insisted, “It was one of thousands of cases that Navsarjan has fought since 1988 on behalf of Dalits, formerly known as untouchables, who continue to endure social stigma and economic marginalization 70 years after India’s constitution outlawed caste-based discrimination.”