Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Gujarat Dalit families of Par village "forced" to migrate to Patan town following social boycott by dominant castes

By Our Representative
Fresh facts have come to light of dominant castes in North Gujarat villages violently reacting to refusal of Dalits to pick up dead cattle for skinning, a caste-based occupation mainly restricted to the Rohit or Chamar sub-caste, following the gruesome Una incident, in which four Rohit youths were badly thrashed by cow vigilantes on July 11, 2016.
Several Dalit families of Par village of Santalpur taluka of Patan district have been forced to migrate to Patan town following their social boycott by dominant caste people. Kantilal Parmar, a senior Dalit rights activist, said, “The social boycott has been continuing for the last six months after the Dalits refused to pick up dead cattle following a call to protest the Una incident.”
Currently sitting in front of the district collector’s office, the Dalit families want an alternative site to live, because they feel, they will never be able to live peacefully with the dominant castes, especially Rajput Darbars. Those participating in the sit-in or dharna include women, children and old.
“While most of the families have migrated out, 18 families have stayed back, hoping that there would be some compromise”, said Parmar, who accused the Gujarat government for “refusal to look into the plight of Dalits and other deprived sections.”
The forced migration to Patan town happened a week after the social boycott of Dalits, begun in Randej village of Bechraji block in Mehsana district of Gujarat because of the same reason – refusal to pick up dead cattle.
The conflict in Randej village began following the dominant castes arranging for a separate sitting arrangement for Dalits during a temple ceremony, after which the community refused to have food at the afternoon feast organized by the temple managers.
Objecting to this, dominant sections of the upper caste gave a call to socially boycott of Dalits, something that other villagers followed out of fear. A penalty of Rs 2,100 was imposed on all those who dared interact with Dalits.
The result was, Dalits stopped getting essential commodities from the ration shop. No one would ply vehicles to the Dalit area. Shopkeepers refused to sell milk, vegetables, and other commodities of daily needs. Dalit daily wagers were refused jobs. This created a situation of food insecurity among Dalit families, especially children and women.
However, unlike Par village, the Dalits of Randej deciced to fight back. They filed a first information report (FIR) with the police. However, this did not help, because the FIR was purposely kept weak, and no criminal case was registered against those responsible for social boycott.
This made Dalits to represented to the district collector, asking him to provide transport facility, cash dole to those who are unable to earn because of the social boycott, and ensure smooth distribution of milk and other daily needs from shops, especially the public distribution system. All this, the representation insists, should be done under police protection.
The representation also demanded strict action against shopkeepers and those responsible for refusing to sell items of basic necessities. It also demanded alternative employment to the affected families.
Kaushik Parmar, a Dalit rights activist who has been supporting the Dalits, says, “The sad part is, the government machinery is a mute spectator. Despite Gujarat’s poor performance of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGREGS) for providing employment in rural areas, the state machinery has not provided jobs to those who have been rendered jobless due to social boycott.”

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