Skip to main content

Gujarat Dalits: In 2006-13, 8,884 cases of violence; 18 killed every year. Minister says it's "not so bad"

By Darshan Desai*
These are no isolated cases in Gujarat…
>Gordhan Chauhan, 52, received a phone call at his Ahmedabad home in the afternoon of February 25 that his youngest brother Soma had fallen on the road and died of severe head injuries in their native village Kharad in Ahmedabad district’s Dhandhuka taluka (tehsil). On reaching there, along with relatives, he was aghast to find that Soma, somewhere in his mid-twenties, was murdered by an upper caste man and his goons.
Soma had fitted tiles at the residence of Jayubhai Chudasama, but he was not paid anything. He would not oblige despite several reminders and that day Soma Chauhan, who was a Dalit, again went to him demanding his remuneration. This enraged Chudasama, who spewed expletives at him with casteist insults and told him he has no right to ask for money from him.
As Soma answered back, Chudasama and his men roughed him up and dragged him on the street. When Soma fell down, Chudasama lifted a big stone and hit him. He fell unconscious and later died. Chudasama threatened his brother and relatives with the same fate if they reported the incident to the police.
>In September 2012, 27-year-old Lalji Sarvaiya of a Dalit family was burnt alive in Ankolali village of Junagadh district in Saurashtra region by village sarpanch and 11 others, accusing the youth of eloping with his upper caste daughter. Three Dalit families comprising 20 people ran away from the village following this incident, leaving all their belongings and vehicles behind. They have still not been able to return to their village and are living in Una town…
***
On an average, 18 Dalits were killed every year in Gujarat between 2006 and 2013 among 8,884 cases of violence against the community, and these are only those that are reported. What is more, according to a study by Navsarjan Trust that works among Dalits for over two decades, there are as many as 109 villages in the State where Dalits have to live under police protection after being attacked by members of the higher castes.
And here, too, the cops don’t stand guard near the colony of Dalits, which is usually at the end of the village, but among the houses of upper castes and enjoy their hospitality. They won’t touch a cup of tea or water offered by a Dalit.
“You might have heard these things to be common in States like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, but it is no different here in Gujarat though it may be called a progressive and developed State,” says Kantilal Parmar, who works for Navsarjan.
According to Parmar, violence against the community is only one aspect, there is rampant social and economic discrimination against Dalits in the State -- only a fraction of such instances are reported. There as many as 77 villages in 14 districts where Dalits are facing social boycott.
They are not allowed to enter temples, prevented from drawing water from the village wells, they are not hired in labour works, driven away from flour mills, their children are denied admissions to village schools -- these are only a few examples. Scores of people in many villages have had to migrate to other places because of persecution by the higher castes, he adds.
The situation is worse in the water-scarce parched regions of Saurashtra where Dalits are denied access to the already depleting water sources. Take Choki village in Surendranagar district where the water standposts providing Narmada waters at the Dalitvas (colony of Dalits) were destroyed by upper castes soon after they were installed in 2009. About 40 per cent of the 4,000 population of this village comprises the ‘lower castes.’ There is an old well in the Dalitvas but the water in it is contaminated.
“Just change the name of the place and the situation is the same in hundreds of villages in Saurashtra, especially in severely water-starved Surendranagar, Rajkot, Jamnagar and Amreli districts. It gets worse for Dalits since their houses are generally in low-lying areas where water supply is better than at places inhabited by upper caste members, who choke the pipelines leading to Dalitvas,” says a senior Dalit officer from the Gujarat Administrative Service cadre, pleading anonymity.
The stock reply of the Gujarat Water Supply and Sewerage Board officials to the villagers complaining about this is that while they would look into their grievances, the responsibility of water distribution lies with the village panchayats. “And the panchayats are controlled by the upper castes,” quips the official.

Minister's reaction

Despite rampant discrimination, the Gujarat Government’s official position is that the overall situation is not as bad as in other states. Says Social Justice and Welfare Minister Ramanlal Vora, the crimes against Scheduled Castes or Dalits are much less than the national average. “The number of crimes per one lakh population is 1.7 per cent in Gujarat as against the national rate of 2.8 per cent,” he says.
The State Government, according to him, is making all out effort to get justice for the Dalits besides their rehabilitation. His ministry says there is a vigilance and monitoring committee for Dalit issues right from the taluka level to the State level. While the taluka and district level committees meet every three months, the one at the State level chaired by the Chief Minister has its meetings twice a year.
The fact, however, is that the State-level vigilance committee has not met even once since September 2013.
---
*Senior journalist based in Ahmedabad

Comments

TRENDING

#MeToo moment in Hyderabad Urdu varsity? Two girl students seek action against authorities

Counterview Desk
Has the #MeToo movement reached Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MAANU)? It would seem so if a recent letter by newly-appointed chancellor Firoz Bakht Ahmed to MAANU vice-chancellor Dr Aslam Parvaiz is any indication. Seeking reinstatement of two girl victims of “sexual harassment and humiliation”, the letter specifically names head of the department of the Media Centre for Journalism, suspecting, the problem could be much deeper.
Text of the letter: It is a matter of utmost perturbation for me to receive the two representations from the girls studying in the MCJ (Media Center for Journalism) regarding their sexual and subsequently, mental and social harassment at the hands of Prof Ehtesham Ahmad Khan, the HOD, MCJ.
We do not know, how many girls have been exploited by him and preferred to be silent for saving their family’s honour; however, there are two brave girls who stood to the depraved advances and misuse by Prof Ehtesham and came up with written complai…

"Ineligible" funding of Sardar Statue in Gujarat: CAG tells Central PSUs, it's not a heritage CSR activity

By Our Representative
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India, in its recent report on Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSE), has qualified public sector undertakings’ (PSUs') funding the 182-metre world’s highest Sardar Statue, currently being constructed in the Narmada river downstream of the Sardar Sarovar dam as an “ineligible” corporate social responsibility (CSR) activity.

Gujarat BJP MLAs, youth leader "incited" attack on North Indians: Cong releases video

Counterview Desk
Senior Gujarat Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil, currently in charge of Bihar and national spokesperson, All-India Congress Committee, has sent a legal notice to chief minister Vijay Rupani threatening criminal case and civil defamation suit for accusing him with "baseless statement" that he was responsible for attacks on north Indians in Gujarat.

29th "NRC-related" suicide in Assam, as Nirod Baran Das takes his life by hanging on a fan

By Our Representative
Reporting 29th case of National Register of Citizens (NRC)-driven suicide in Assam, one of India’s human rights campaign sites has said that, on October 20, tragedy struck Kharupetia town in Darrang district of Assam, when a retired school teacher and advocate Nirod Baran Das “took his life by hanging himself to a fan in his home.” The report adds, “The NRC process has so far claimed over two dozen such lives in the past four months alone.”

"Highly irregular" for PSUs to fund Sardar Statue under Corporate Social Responsibility

Counterview Desk
In a letter to I Srinivas, secretary, Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Government of India, former secretary (economic affairs), Ministry of Finance, EAS Sarma, has raised questions on the funding of the Sardar Patel statue in South Gujarat by Central Public Sector Undertaking (CPSUs) relying on the Comptroller and Auditor General report (No 18/2018).

Murder of Tamil Nadu teenage Dalit girl: "Stoic silence" despite #MeToo movement

Counterview Desk
Brinelle D'souza, who is with the Centre for Health and Mental Health, School of Social Work, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, has prepared a strong statement to protest the brutal murder of 13-year-old Rajalakshmi. "Other than a few media reports, this gruesome killing has not caught national attention despite a very vibrant #MeToo campaign currently underway", regrets D'souza.

Post-MJ Akbar resignation: #MeToo movement and fears of backlash

By Sheshu Babu*
For the last few days, #MeToo movement has picked up momentum and many women are coming out with horrific tales of severe harassment in their past lives. They are not afraid anymore to expose famous persons including those at ministerial levels. As a senior journalist Neeraja Chowdhury opined (“An exit, a beginning”, October 18, 2018, indianexpress.com), "The #MeToo revelations are like the eruption of a volcano which was imminent, given the journey working women have covered. It was not easy to make public what they had gone through,and take on powerful men.”

World Bank clarifies: Its 26th rank to India not for universal access to power but for ease of doing business

By Our Representative
In a major embarrassment to the Government of India, the World Bank has reportedly clarified that it has not ranked India 26th out of 130 countries for providing power to its population. The top international banker’s clarification comes following Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal’s claim that India has “improved to 26 position from 99” in access to electricity in just one year.

Bank account frozen, raid on Amnesty office: Govt of India "treating" human rights NGOs like criminal enterprises

By Abhirr VP*
Amnesty India’s bank accounts have been frozen by the Enforcement Directorate, effectively stopping its work. Amnesty India is thus the latest target of the government’s assault on civil society in the country. The accounts of Greenpeace India were frozen earlier this month.

60 ex-civil servants seek release of CAG reports on Rafale, demonetisation before 2019 polls

Counterview Desk
As many as 60 retired civil servants have asked President Ram Nath Kovind to expedite the release of Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) reports on demonetisation and the Rafale deal. The letter, signed mainly by former Indian Administrative Service, Indian Foreign Service and Indian Police Service officers, regrets that the status of the audit is "unclear”. According to them, “An impression is gaining ground that CAG is deliberately delaying its audit reports on demonetisation and Rafale deal till after the May 2019 elections so as not to embarrass the present government”.