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Caste 'discrimination' of Dalits, Adivasis in quarantine centres: Demand for inquiry

Quarantine centres in Jharkhand: Representative image
Counterview Desk
A civil rights organization, Jharkhand Janadhikar Manch (JMM), has taken strong exception to what it calls “contradictory statements by government officials in caste-based discrimination case in the Hazaribagh Banaso Panchayat quarantine centre, demanding the state authorities must seek clarification from officials concerned as to “why the dry ration was arranged in the quarantine centre and why confirmation regarding the incident was given to media.
In a statement, JJM said, the whole matter should be re-investigated, and if found guilty, action should be taken against all those concerned people, and there should be strict monitoring in the entire state that there are no instances of discrimination in the quarantine centres.

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On May 25, 2020, Prabhat Khabar reported that four Brahmin migrant labourers staying at the quarantine centre of Hazaribagh, Banaso Panchayat, Bishnugarh Block, refused to eat food cooked by a Scheduled Caste (SC) person. The Brahmins demanded the administration to give dry ration instead of cooked food. Thereafter, separate dry ration was arranged for these four by the Mukhiya.
In the report, the deputy commissioner (DC), Hazaribagh, Bhuvnesh Kumar Singh has been quoted as confirming that he talked with the block development officer (BDO) and for the four Brahmin migrant labourers, who had refused to eat dry ration was arranged. This news was also published in the "Times of India", along with the same statement by the DC confirming the incident.
When the administration arranges for separate ration rather than taking action in such a situation, it encourages discrimination and casteist thought and behaviour and is also complicit in the same and is as much of a culprit.
The issue was tweeted by the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha and it was demanded that action should be taken on those who refused to eat, as well as on the administration, that was complicit in the discrimination, as it arranged for separate dry ration in the quarantine centre.
Other journalists, social workers, and aware citizens also raised this issue on Twitter. After this, the Jharkhand Police tagged Hazaribagh Police and asked to take cognizance of the case and to take action. On the same day, a video of the cooks in the quarantine centre of Banaso Panchayat also made rounds, in which they are saying that the newspaper report is concocted, and no such incident took place.
In that video, it is also clear that someone is dictating from behind the camera what to say. By the evening, the DC, Hazaribagh retweets Mahasabha’s tweet saying that the matter was investigated by the Additional Collector, after which the case was found to be baseless.
The next day, on May 26, 2020, "Prabhat Khabar" reported that everyone is having food in the quarantine centre, along with DC's statement that the situation is normal there and the caste discrimination issue has been found baseless in the Additional Collector's investigation.
Information has been received about caste-based discrimination in quarantine centres  of Bishnugarh, Simdega and Bolba blocks
Question arises: What was the foundation of the statement by DC on the previous day confirming the incident and stating that dry ration was arranged. The “Times of India” report also clearly stated that DC Bhuvnesh Kumar Singh had confirmed the incident. If the situation was normal, on what basis were the newspapers given the confirmation of the incident?
Information has also been received from other areas in Jharkhand about discrimination against Dalit/Adivasi people in quarantine centres (e.g. in Karbeda Panchayat of Simdega and Bolba Block). The Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha is against any kind of discrimination and strongly condemns it. In this event where the facts do not match, and the matter seems doubtful, Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha demands the following:
  • Clarification should be provided by the DC, BDO, and the Mukhiya as to why the dry ration was arranged in the quarantine center and why confirmation regarding the incident was given to the newspapers? Deputy Commissioner, Hazaribagh should provide clarification for his contradictory statements.
  • The information about the procedures adopted in the investigation by the Additional Collector should be made public. 
  • This case should be re-investigated, and if found guilty, action should be taken against all concerned people. 
  • There should be strict monitoring in the entire Jharkhand state that there are no instances of discrimination in the quarantine centres, and strict action should be taken if found. In any case, the constitutional and human values of equality should not be violated.

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