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Archives for : discrimination

Dalit woman Forced to Clean School Tank for Her Girl’s Admission #WTFnews

Published: 31st July 2014 08:10 AM

MADURAI: A Dalit woman was allegedly forced to clean a tank filled with garbage when she went to the Melur Government Girl’s Higher Secondary School seeking admission for her daughter in the science stream of Class XI. While school principal Daisy Nirmala Rani claimed that daily wager Muthupillai had only asked for a job and was paid `250 for clearing the garbage, the woman’s daughter said her mother was pressured to do the work.

Some senior teachers in the school said the principal had asked them to admit the 16-year-old girl, who passed out of Al Ammen High School, Melur, with overall 50 per cent marks in Class X, in the science stream and told them that her mother would clean the tank.

Since it was past 4 pm when the admission process was over on July 23, the woman promised to come later to clean the tank. On July 28, when the principal was at the campus to shoot a group picture, she noticed the four feet deep, six feet long and three feet wide tank brimming with garbage and asked the teacher to call Muthupillai immediately.

The teacher spoke to Muthupillai after getting her phone number from her daughter. “Muthupillai came to the school around 4 pm and cleaned the garbage tank, which took nearly two hours. I have been teaching in this school for many years, but I have never witnessed such a degrading incident on the campus,” said a senior teacher.

When Chief Education Officer J Angelo Eradiya Swami was asked about the incident, he said: “The principal claimed the woman asked for the job explaining her family situation and so was asked to clean the tank. I have told the principal not to engage in such practices in the future. As I received information that there was groupism in the school, I conducted a detailed inquiry.”

 

Read more here- http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/tamil_nadu/Dalit-Forced-to-Clean-School-Tank-for-Her-Girl’s-Admission/2014/07/31/article2356894.ece1

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How Dalits are victims of caste discrimination in Haryana

In Samalkha town

Monday, 14 July 2014 – 1:12pm IST | Agency: DNA
  • child-rights-and-you-cryImage for representational purposes only.RNA Research & Archives

As you leave Delhi’s borders via the NH-1 and head towards Chandigarh, about 70 km away from Connaught Place is the small, bustling town of Samalkha. Located in Haryana’s Panipat district, it is famous for grain, jaggery and wood markets.

However, as you head deeper inside this industrial town, haunting stories of child rights violations begin to emerge.

It is the duty of our organisation Child Rights and You (CRY) to restore children’s rights in an area. CRY’s intervention area in Samalkha covers 19 Dalit-dominated hamlets under five villages. The Dalit communities here are almost absolutely marginalised and excluded. Child rights violations are rampant in all Dalit hamlets, and Dalits are being denied most democratic rights due to the strong socio-economic-political status of the Gujjars in the area.

The children in the families living there are vulnerable to discrimination, exploitation and violence simply because of the caste into which they were born. The caste system relegates Dalits, formerly known as ‘untouchables’, to a lifetime of segregation and abuse. Caste-based divisions dominate in housing and education, in and general social interaction. There is discrimination at every level; the socio-economic condition of the Dalit community is deplorable.

The problem of land is central to the impoverished Dalit community. Dalits are prevented from possessing land – even that which has been set aside for them by the government. It is important to realise that land is not just a primary means of production, but also gives the holder economic security, social status and identity.

Illiteracy and school drop-out rates among Dalits are very high due to a number of social and physical factors. The illiteracy rate for Samalkha’s Dalit children is also generally higher compared to other children. Discriminatory practices exercised by teachers against these Dalit children include corporal punishment, denial of access to school water and indirect discrimination, such as neglect, repeated blaming, and labelling of Dalit students as weak performers, exclusion from the Mid-Day Meal Scheme etc., lead to social exclusion of Dalit students in school in the area.

The health and nutritional status of Dalit children in an intervention area is one of CRY’s major concerns; their effect is directly visible when it comes to early pregnancy, infant deaths, child deaths, maternal deaths and still births.

Data from our baseline survey shows an increasing number of infant and child deaths in our intervention area. The disparity in access to resources leads to disparity in exposure to the risk of disease, leading to disparity in disease burdens. There is a very clear indication from our experience in the area that the health status of children and women is very closely related to their social and economic status. More attention needs to be focused on the health of women, which would also help improve not only the health of the child but the whole population.

Ghar se bahar nikalte hi Jat ladke mujhe chedte hai, main school se waapis aati hun toh mera raasta rokte hain. (As soon as I leave my house, Jat boys eve-tease and verbally harass me. On my way back from school, they touch me and block my way.)”

This is the voice of a young Dalit girl currently living in Manana village in Samalkha.

Being discriminated against is a more serious problem for a Dalit girl child. Caste-based discrimination makes the Dalit girl more visible to the eyes of the perpetrators and, simultaneously, more invisible to the eyes of the protectors.

In Manana village, the liquor shop is located immediately outside the Dalit basti and is unavoidable on the route to and from the fields. Dalit girls going to or returning from the fields have no other option but to walk by the shop, where men leer at them and make suggestive remarks. Young non-Dalit men and boys who enter the basti to drink also bother the girls.

There should be a comprehensive approach to counter these problems, it is essential to recognise that the Dalit identity heightens the vulnerability to harassment, abuse and neglect. Constant efforts through awareness generation and capacity building about their rights to bring equal opportunity and social justice to the Dalit children in Samalkha will help them in overcoming the vicious cycle of caste and cultural barrier.

Read mor ehere- http://www.dnaindia.com/analysis/standpoint-how-dalits-are-victims-of-caste-discrimination-in-haryana-s-samalkha-town-2001998

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Punished by axe: Bonded labour in India’s brick kilns

By Humphrey HawksleyBBC News

Dialu Nial with his friend who also lost a hand

India’s economy is the 10th largest in the world, but millions of the country’s workers are thought to be held in conditions little better than slavery. One man’s story – which some may find disturbing – illustrates the extreme violence that some labourers are subjected to.

Dialu Nial’s life changed forever when he was held down by his neck in a forest and one of his kidnappers raised an axe to strike.

He was asked if he wanted to lose his life, a leg or a hand.

Six days earlier, Nial had been among 12 young men being taken against their will to make bricks on the outskirts of one of India’s biggest cities, Hyderabad.

During the journey, they got a chance to escape and ran for it – but Nial and a friend were caught and this was their punishment.

Both chose to lose their right hands. Nial had to watch while the other man’s hand was cut first.

“They put his arm on a rock. One held his neck and two held his arm. Another brought down the axe and severed his hand just like a chicken’s head. Then they cut mine.

“The pain was terrible. I thought I was going to die,” says Nial.

Continue reading the main story

“Start Quote

They threw my hand into the woods – I wrapped my left hand around my wound and held it tight”

Dialu Nial

Now free, and his injury healing, he is back home deep in the countryside of Orissa. There is no electricity or sanitation. Many of the villagers are illiterate.

“I didn’t go to school. When I was a child I tended cattle and harvested rice,” Nial says, sitting on the earth outside the cluster of huts which are his family’s home.

It is from communities like this that people are liable to be drawn into a system known as bonded labour. Typically a broker finds someone a job and charges a fee that they will repay by working – but their wages are so low that it takes years, or even a whole lifetime. Meanwhile, violence keeps them in line.

Activists and academics estimate that some 10 million bonded labourers are working in India’s key industries, indirectly contributing to the profits of global Indian brands and multinationals that operate in the country and have helped to transform India into an economic powerhouse.

Laid out beside Nial are a number of old plastic sacks. His family ekes out a living by unravelling them and turning the individual threads into binding cord. Awkwardly, Nial wedges a wooden spool of thread between his toes, and holds another in his remaining hand. His brother, Rahaso, sits next to him doing the same.

Nial struggles to wind the cord, his brow creasing. His brother works quickly, outpacing him. Then the spool flips out of Nial’s hand. Rahaso gives it back him. Disappointment and anger flood through Nial’s face.

Dialu sits in his village

It was in early December that Nilamber, a friend from a nearby village told Nial about a job in brick kiln for which he would supposedly get 10,000 rupees ($165; £98) up front. It was all being organised by one of Nilamber’s neighbours, Bimal, who was trying out working as a broker.

Nial, Nilamber, Bimal, and 10 others travelled by bus to meet the main contractor.

“I knew he was a rich man. He had a motorcycle and wore a tie,” says Nial.

The contractor showed them the money, but took it straight back. They would not in fact get it up front, he said, but some time later. Nial nonetheless believed he would still be paid and agreed to work – although illegal, it meant he had technically taken the bond.

The men were taken the next day to the railway station at Raipur, the capital of Chhattisgargh state. Then, instead of being sent on a short journey to a brick kiln as they had been promised, they discovered the train was heading 500 miles (800km) south to Hyderabad, a thriving city and a pillar of India’s economic success. But some in the group had already heard stories about forced labour there, and got ready to rebel.

When the train stopped at a station, all except Nial and Nilamber escaped. Instead of continuing to Hyderabad the contractor took them back to Raipur, spending some of the journey on his mobile phone, arranging their reception.

“His henchmen were waiting for us,” recalls Nial. “They held us and put their hands over our mouths to stop us shouting.”

Men making bricks, India

At this point, Bimal slipped away. Nial and Nilamber were taken back to the contractor’s house and held hostage.

“They called our families telling them to pay money for our release,” says Nial. “They beat us hard so my brother could hear me crying in pain down the phone.”

The contractor demanded that Nial pay him 20,000 rupees (US$330; £196) for his release but his family was unable to raise the money. He and Nilamber were held for five days. During the day they were made to work on the contractor’s farm. In the evenings they were beaten.


“Start Quote

They have been bought and traded as property and that is how they see themselves”

Roseann RajanInternational Justice Mission

On the sixth day, his kidnappers were drinking heavily. The contractor and five of his men drove them to remote woodland. First they were held down and beaten. Then, they were made to kneel – and mutilated.

“They threw my hand into the woods,” he says. “I wrapped my left hand around my wound and held it tight. I squeezed it to stop the bleeding until the pain became too much and I released it. Then I had to grip it again.”

A basic survival instinct took over. They followed a stream to a village, where they were able to bind their wounds and cover them with a plastic bag. Then they took a bus to a nearby town to seek hospital treatment.

Nial stiffens as he tells the story. Often he stops to gather his thoughts.

He has now begun a two-year programme run by a charity, the International Justice Mission (IJM), to help him recover from his ordeal. As part of his rehabilitation, he joins a group of more than 150 people at a counselling session in Orissa – all of whom have been freed from bonded labour in the past few months, mostly in brick kilns.

Among them are dozens of children. Most of the men have been badly beaten. There are women who have been raped, and two who were kicked in the stomach while pregnant – the husband of one was thrown to his death from a train.

 

Roseann Rajan from International Justice Mission helps free people from bonded labour

In a scene reminiscent of the era of slavery in the US, they sing about their troubles: “We will overcome our pain. We will be free,” goes the chorus.

For everyone, the first year of the programme is about re-learning how to express the most basic of human emotions.

“They have been bought and traded as property and that is how they see themselves,” explains Roseann Rajan, a counsellor with IJM. “They don’t know how to show emotions. They can’t smile or frown or express grief.”

Activists argue that the Indian government’s failure to protect people from forced labour, kidnapping, and other crimes amounts to a serious abuse of citizens’ rights.

“There are deep-rooted problems of business-related human rights abuse in India,” says Peter Frankental, Economic Relations Programme Director of Amnesty International UK. “Much of that involves the way business is conducted, an unwillingness to enforce laws against companies, and fabricated charges and false imprisonment against activists who try to bring these issues to light.”

Women carrying bricks Each Indian brick kiln moulds a unique logo on to its bricks

The Confederation of Indian Industries instructs companies to follow Indian law, which has banned bonded labour since 1976. But the IJM says the courts do little to punish those who break the law, as it takes about five years to bring a case to court and even then a broker or brick kiln owner often gets away with a $30 (£18) fine.

Under UN guidelines introduced in 2011, multinationals operating in India also bear responsibility for any abuse of workers all the way down their supply chains. Most say they are fully committed to upholding human rights and the UN guidelines. But campaigners say they know of no big company operating in India that guarantees its buildings are constructed from legally-made bricks. Because each brick kiln moulds a unique logo on to its bricks, it would be possible to trace them back to their origins.

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Slavery in the supply chain

Workers carrying rebar

Britain’s biggest trade union, Unite, describes the use of bonded labour in India as a scandal – and says it will start monitoring companies that might be using slavery in their supply chains. “It’s been going on for too long and must stop now,” says general secretary Len McCluskey.

Britain encourages companies to invest in India – it has launched a record £1bn ($1.7bn) credit line for those involved in Indian infrastructure contracts – but advises them to incorporate human rights protection into their operations.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) last month introduced a tough, legally-binding protocol against forced labour, saying it was an “an abomination which still afflicts our world of work”. Its 185 member states will incorporate the protocol into their national laws.

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Many in government, meanwhile, deny that bonded labour exists.

The Labour Commissioner for Andra Pradesh – the state of which Hyderabad is the capital – told me in December he could give me a 100% guarantee that there was no bonded labour on his territory.

“There’s no such thing,” said Dr A Ashok.

He cited the brick kilns in Ranga Reddy just outside Hyderabad as a model for the industry. But many of those on Nial’s rehabilitation programme have just come from there. Each has a government-stamped certificate stating they have been freed from bonded labour.

Unusually, arrests have been made in connection with Nial’s kidnapping and the suspects are in custody. Bimal, the villager who first recruited them, was arrested and has been released on bail.

BimalBimal says he would like to apologise to Nial

We find him walking through flat scrubland, peppered with trees, past broken fences and wooden huts. Married with two children, and six years older than Nial, he carries himself with far more confidence.

It’s true he recruited Nial, he says, but he denies any involvement in kidnappings and beatings.

“It wasn’t only my mistake – we all made the decision to go. I want to apologise and meet Dialu [Nial] again so we can live together as neighbours,” says Bimal.

Nial, though, rejects any idea of reconciliation. “Jail isn’t good enough for them. They should be hanged,” he says.

His hopes for the future? “I really want to get married and have a family of my own.”

But with that, his face darkens again. He glances down and covers his stump with his shirt sleeve. In his culture, with his severed hand, finding a wife and starting a family will be very difficult indeed.

He shakes his head sadly. “Of course, I can never forgive them.”

Photographs by Dominic Hurst

Read more here- http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-27486450

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Kerala Dalit principal shunted out, for standing up to Education Minister #WTFnews

Written by Shaju Philip | Thiruvanathapuram | June 27, 2014 8:50 am

SUMMARY

The transfer has triggered anger across the state and put the government on the defensive.
A dalit principal of a girls’ high school has been transferred, days after she apparently ticked off the state education minister for arriving late at a function in her school. The transfer has triggered anger across the state and put the government on the defensive.

The incident took place on June 16 when Education Minister P K Abdu Rabb arrived for a function at the Government Girls’ Higher Secondary School, Cotton Hill, Thiruvananthapuram three hours behind schedule. He was scheduled to attend the inauguration ceremony of an English club at the school at 9. 30 am.

When the minister did not turn up until 11. 30 am, principal K K Urmila Devi, who was waiting at the gate with the school students, assigned the reception duty to the additional principal and went back to her office for meetings. Incidentally, the 55-year-old principal suffers from a serious brain ailment, for which she has been undergoing treatment for the past four years.

When the minister finally reached the school at 12.30 pm, he was upset on seeing the gates closed. The gates were opened by the minister’s security staff.

Later at the function, the principal in her address pointed out that programmes attended by VIPs should be organised in such a manner that they do not disrupt class hours. “I didn’t criticise the minister. What I had raised was the concern about students losing their academic hours due to the failure of the organisers. The organisers, the State Institute of English, should have arranged the function accordingly,” she said.

On June 20, she got a showcause notice from the education department, seeking an explanation on why the school gates were closed when the minister arrived and why she spoke against him for coming late. Although the notice demanded a reply in 15 days, the department transferred her earlier this week. Devi, who was only a year’s service left and has been under treatment for brain fungus, was shunted out to a school 45 km from here.

On Thursday, the CPM-led opposition staged a walkout from the assembly for the second consecutive day, demanding that the transfer order be revoked. Climbing down from his tough stand against the principal, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said she can move appeal and the transfer was not punitive in nature.

CPM legislator V Shivankutty, who raised the issue in the assembly, said the minister was showing pettiness by transferring the teacher. He asked whether the gates of the girls’ school should be kept open during the school hours.

Rabb said the transfer was based on an inquiry report, which said Devi failed in discharging her duties and maintaining school discipline. He said he had to wait at the school gates for some time before his securityman opened it. “I had sought apology for being late at the event. But the headmistress tried to blow up the issue in a manner insulting me,” he said.

Devi said she was targeted because she belonged to a Scheduled Caste community. “I am the first Dalit to become the principal of this school (one of the largest in Kerala in terms of students). Many PTA members could not stomach a Dalit as school headmistress. I got transfer to the school on health ground. It is cruel that a disciplinary action was taken without hearing my side,” she said.

Devi, who moved an appeal in the state administrative tribunal, said, “No one told me that a school headmistress should receive a minister at the gate.”

 

Read mor ehere – http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/dalit-principal-meets-chandy-wants-transfer-order-revoked/

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#India – Muslim students served food last – HRW

World | Agence France Presse | Updated: April 22, 2014 16:20 IST

Muslim students served food last, says rights group

Representational Photo

New Delhi Some teachers force children from lower castes and minority religions to clean toilets and sit separately from their classmates as part of “persistent” discrimination in classrooms, a rights group said Tuesday.

Human Rights Watch (HRW)  said pupils from marginalised communities often drop out of school and start working as labourers rather than face continued humiliation at the hands of teachers and principals. (Read full report here)

The 77-page study on schools was compiled through interviews with more than 160 teachers, principals, parents and students in four states – Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Bihar –  which have large populations of low-caste poor, indigenous tribals and Muslims.

“India’s immense project to educate all its children risks falling victim to deeply rooted discrimination by teachers and other school staff against the poor and marginalised,” said the report’s author Jayshree Bajoria.

“Instead of encouraging children from at-risk communities who are often the first in their families to ever step inside a classroom, teachers often neglect or even mistreat them,” she said.

Children from Muslim communities were among those often made to sit at the back of classrooms or in separate rooms. They were called derogatory names, were denied leadership roles and were served food last, the report said.

Some children said they were segregated and neglected because they were considered dirty, while Muslim students said they were called “mullahs”, a term for an Islamic cleric, instead of by their names.

In 2009, the parliament passed landmark legislation that guarantees state schooling for children aged six to 14 and enrollments have reached more than 90 percent nationally.

But HRW said the law does not contain punishments for those who discriminate in the classroom.

Most education authorities have failed to establish proper mechanisms to monitor and track children, who were at risk of dropping out, and acting to ensure they were able to remain in school, the report said.

Read more here — http://www.ndtv.com/article/world/muslim-students-served-food-last-says-rights-group-512135
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The untold story of Dalit journalists in India #mustread

Many Dalits enter the media because they believe it can empower their community. But discrimination against them is rampant in the Hindi and other language media. It is less pronounced in the English media, finds AJAZ ASHRAF in an Independence anniversary feature.of the HOOT http://thehoot.org/
A Hoot special report
Dalit participation in the media has been pathetically poor, despite reservation for them in media institutes. Why do they keep away from the media? Is it because they encounter discrimination, as they do in many other avenues? To study their negligible presence in the media, Ajaz Ashraf identified 21 Dalits who are or were journalists and spoke to them extensively about their childhood, their experiences in media institutes, and their disenchantment with journalism. In this first of the three-part series, they describe how their Dalit identity was formed and its link to their wish to enter the media world.
It is considered a miracle if you can prick the calloused conscience of journalists in Delhi and prompt them to introspect. Yet this is what journalist BN Uniyal achieved through a piece – In Search Of a Dalit Journalist – he wrote for The Pioneer on November 16, 1996. Uniyal’s was in fact a veritable odyssey that he embarked upon in response to a request from a Delhi-based foreign correspondent. Could he, asked the correspondent, recommend him a Dalit journalist to whom he could speak on the squabble between the media and Bahujan Samaj Party leader Kanshi Ram?
In that moment Uniyal realized that in all the 30 years he had worked as a journalist he had never met a fellow journalist who was a Dalit. “No, not one,” he wrote. He took the foreign correspondent’s request to friends, editors, and columnists. None knew of a Dalit journalist. Uniyal then leafed through the Press Information Bureau’s booklet listing the names of 686 accredited journalists. Of them, 454 had caste surnames, none of which suggested he or she was Dalit; he called at random 47 of the remaining 232, and still drew a blank. Distraught, he wondered, “What would journalism be like if there were as many journalists amidst us from among the Dalits as were among the Brahmins.”
Four months ago, I stood waiting to have my passbook updated at the Central Bank of India branch located on the verdant campus of the Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC) in Delhi. As I wondered over the employment prospects of students whom mushrooming media institutes were turning out in numbers beyond the capacity of the slowing market to absorb, Uniyal’s piece unspooled out of memory. IIMC is a government institute, I thought, which must therefore have reserved seats for Dalits from its inception in 1965. Questions assailed me: Why couldn’t Uniyal identify a single Dalit journalist in 1996? Where do Dalit students disappear after securing post-graduate diploma in journalism from IIMC, arguably among the best media institutes in the country?
I requested the office of Sunit Tandon, Director-General, IIMC, to provide me a list of Dalit students who had been admitted in the reserved category over the past few years. (Dalit, or downtrodden, is a broad category but Dalit in this piece means Scheduled Caste and both terms have been used interchangeably). As I waited for the names to be collated, I trawled the internet to read articles on Dalit representation in the media. The picture these readings conveyed was dismal.
I met journalist Anil Chamadia, chairman, Media Studies Group (MSG), which along with political scientist Yogendra Yadav conducted in 2006 a survey of 37 media organisations boasting a national presence. Not a single Dalit held the top 10 positions in any of the organisations. The MSG also surveyed 116 IIMC-trained correspondents and found that, till June 2011, only six of them were Dalit.
Some of the anecdotal accounts I read portrayed a skewed perception among dominant social groups about the Dalits. For instance, Shivam Vij’s piece, Caste in the newsroom?, featured on The Hoot website in June 2004, opens with a question he asks Dilip Awasthi, a senior editor of Dainik Jagran: Why are there so few Scheduled Caste and Backward Caste journalists? Awasthi answers: “They don’t go to school.” The next question: has Awasthi ever met a single SC/OBC journalist worthy enough of a job? He replies, “Never. They can’t write a single sentence properly.” Perhaps the supercilious attitude of dominant social groups explains why, like Uniyal, academician Robin Jeffrey couldn’t meet a Dalit journalist in his study of Indian-language newspapers, a study spread over 10 years during which he visited “20 towns, visited dozens of newspapers and interviewed more than 250 people.”
I also realised that Uniyal’s piece, contrary to my belief, hadn’t prompted editors to introspect. To celebrate the dawn of the new millennium, The Pioneer invited Uniyal to write for its eight-page Dalit supplement. He asked them to run the piece he wrote in 1996 with the following lines: “The article…was totally ignored by our journalistic establishment… None felt aghast or alarmed at the situation described in the article…No one felt there was a need for making special efforts to draw qualified Dalits into the media.” These anecdotal accounts and Uniyal’s expression of dismay deepened for me the mystery of where Dalit students passing out from the IIMC wind up. Do they all choose not to enter the media? Where do they go, then?
In the third week of May, I was forwarded a list of over a hundred Scheduled Caste students who had passed out of IIMC over the last five years. I began calling them, randomly choosing phone numbers from the list. A substantial number were no longer in operation; a couple took my call but accused me of encroaching on their privacy, which I was and for which I apologised profusely; there were a few who promised to meet me, but subsequently refused to take the umpteen calls I made to them.
A good many, though, were willing to narrate their stories of what made them harbour dreams of working in the media and discuss their experiences in it. Yet, most of them said they could meet me only in the week following June 2, busy as they were preparing for a competitive examination. What they told me was news to me: on June 2, Prasar Bharati was conducting a written test for recruiting 1166 Programme Executives (PEX) and Transmission Executives (TEX), who constitute the backbone of AIR and Doordarshan stations around the country. I was a tad bewildered, having been weaned on the idea that real, free, untrammelled journalism, despite the erosion of these values over the years, is practiced in the non-government realm. This idea now stood challenged.
Over the weeks, I met those who had passed out from IIMC in the recent past, and they led me to their seniors as also to those who did not study at their alma mater but are journalists. Altogether I met or interacted over phone or email with 21 who were or are journalists, of whom one was an OBC, included here for a particular reason. Ten of them are in Hindi journalism, eight were or are in English, two in Telugu, and a clutch of them in Prasar Bharati, whom I am counting as one, for they preferred their problems to be articulated by the general secretary of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Union, fearing victimisation.
 Only two of the 21 wished to have their names changed.
Lengthy conversations with them broadly suggest the following:
— Many Dalits enter the media because they believe it can empower their community and help focus on issues hobbling them.
— Dalits have a greater presence in the Hindi or other Indian language media than in the English media.
— Discrimination against and antagonism to Dalits is rampant in the Hindi and other language media; it is less pronounced in the English media.
— Nonetheless, discrimination is a principal factor behind their decision to leave the private sector media and opt for government jobs.
— Apart from discrimination, they feel a career in the media is a risky proposition.
— Their weak economic base makes them fear job insecurity which is a defining characteristic of the private sector.
This bland list conceals tales both tragic and inspiring, of oppression and discrimination and humiliation deeply felt, including by those who are middle class, and their struggle to overcome impoverishment and social inequality. Through their experiences was constructed their Dalit identity and the manifold meanings it held out for them and others. Often, the process through which their identity was created spawned in them the desire to enter the media. Indeed, a study of the experience of Dalits in the media without linking it to their childhood or teenage years is an incomplete picture.
Identity in the crucible of conflict
Santosh Valmiki is a principal correspondent in the Lucknow bureau of Hindustan. (He also reads news on Lucknow Doordarshan) His designation will not tell you of the poverty he grew up in, and how it defined his identity. His father was a driver and alcoholic and mother a manual scavenger. From an early age, Santosh accompanied her as she went from house to house cleaning toilets. Keen to ensure an education for her son, she would set aside a portion of her earnings, pawn jewellery or incur debts to pay his school fees.

When Santosh entered Lucknow’s Christian College, expenses mounted overnight to outstrip her indefatigable spirit. Refusing to let penury cow him down, he began to sit on the pavement across Akashvani Bhawan, selling newspapers, as also reading them, and contributing to the children’s supplement of Swatantra Bharat. You could say journalism and his Dalit identity were knitted together seamlessly.

At the IIMC interview, for which he qualified after clearing a written test, he was asked how many newspapers he read daily. Nine, he said. Nine, exclaimed the interviewers, not aware of how newspapers sustained him economically and stimulated him intellectually. When he was to leave Lucknow for the nine-month course in post-graduate diploma in Hindi journalism, his mother handed him 90 notes of Rs 10 denomination, divided into three equal bundles. Son, she said, you are to spend a note daily. This amount was in addition to the Rs 15000 the family had raised for Santosh’s tuition fees.
Success’s steps are often small, taken one at a time. Santosh won a scholarship and consequently the Rs 15000 was returned to him. He went on to top IIMC, and the photograph of the convocation ceremony showing him receiving the award from then Union Minister KR Narayanan was published in a newspaper. He was the talking point of the Valmiki community: a son had risen from amidst them to even stir Delhi. You would think Santosh would be satisfied in having catapulted, Amitabh Bachchan style, from the pavement into the bureau of a major national daily. Judge him not from the obstacles he surmounted to achieve what he has, but against his own potential. Still a principal correspondent after having worked in the media for over two decades ago, he said, “Those junior to me in the profession have become editors.”
It is not just through poverty and supposedly polluting nature of their jobs Dalits begin to fathom who they are. Ask Ved Prakash, currently assistant producer in Total TV, who first learnt about his socially defined inferior status through the tone in which upper castes spoke to Dalit elders, and because, as a child, he’d be reprimanded for retaliating against upper caste children in fights they would trigger. There were also other realities fashioning his idea of self – for instance, his father, who was a clerk in Bihar’s revenue department, had brothers who climbed palm trees to bring down taadi (toddy) and his mother’s brother was a mason.
I met Ved at night, on the sprawling campus of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), and sat on the floor of a building, under a fluorescent tube. Close to midnight, knots of students were still huddled around Ganga dhaba or seated on boulders dotting the open space across it. Their chatter drifted across to us in the sultry night, telling us they were planning their future. “I wanted to increase Dalit participation in the media, to use it to challenge the social structure,” Ved said.

This desire was born in Ved because he experienced the cutting edge of caste at the time he was appointed a teacher in the primary school of Kashichak block, Nawadah. During his tenure there he completed his M. Com and then enrolled for Masters in Mass Communication at the Nalanda Open University. A village should have feted a master so accomplished. It was in fact just the reverse – upper castes resented that their children had a Dalit teacher.

One day, Ved pointed to the errors in the notebook of a pupil who took tuition from an upper caste teacher of the same village. In Bihar’s matrix of caste, Ved was deemed to have crossed a red line. The upper caste teacher accosted him in the local market, rubbished his educational qualification, and began to push him around until others intervened. But the hurt upper caste pride demanded vengeance. Subsequently, an infamous upper caste bully accused Ved of spanking an ironsmith’s son, and publicly beat him up. Ved invoked the Scheduled Caste and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act against the assailant, and also decided to take the IIMC entrance examination, which he successfully cleared last year. He is now in Total TV, drawing a salary of Rs 8000, an amount he thought he could earn driving a three-wheeler, and on which he finds hard to live in Delhi.
To IIMC also came, years earlier, from Bihar’s district of Gopalganj, Ashok Das, who edits a little magazine, Dalit Dastak. His life, you could say, was lived simultaneously in two separate compartments – his friends in school and college were all upper caste, but in the Brahmin colony his family resided in, his father, a clerk, was served tea in a tumbler different from others. The prasad, or offerings, of the satsang his mother organised at home, and which Ashok would distribute in the colony, was invariably found in the litter bin.
“I joined the media because I realised early the power of pen,” he told me, as we sat in the Costa Coffee shop in Delhi’s Bengali Market, the aroma of coffee, the glass-paneled walls, and pastries and patties providing a contrasting backdrop to the reality of his youth. When in Class XII, perturbed at the floods ravaging Gopalganj district every year, he wrote to the director of a Delhi-based NGO, wondering what measures the people could take to alleviate their plight. Not only did the director reply, he even came down to Gopalganj and handed him at a public ceremony a cheque of Rs 15000. Hail the Power of Word, through which you can sway people whom you have never met or spoken to. It inspired Ashok to take the IIMC entrance examination after graduation.
When Ashok came to Delhi in 2005, his official documents gave his surname as Kumar. He was not Ashok Das then. Perhaps his father had registered the surname as Kumar in the hope of concealing his caste. In years to come, the ambiguous surname would elicit suspicious inquiries, as also invite discrimination in the media, goading him into rediscovering the activist lurking inside him.
On the map of India, from Delhi, push west to reach Mahwa tehsil,Dausa, Rajasthan, where Satyendra Murli, who passed out from IIMC this year and has been recently recruited by Hindustan, grew up. In his hometown’s bucolic surroundings he witnessed caste-related discrimination and oppression: his mother and sister were dragged by their hair out of the local temple; and those of dominant castes would call Dalits by their caste names in abusive ways. It was here he and his schoolmates drank water from the pot reserved for the headmaster, but it was only he who was singled out for punishment, which entailed him squatting on his haunches for 30 minutes, lace his arms between his thighs and calves, and hold his ears. He was, to use the colloquial term for it, made a murga.
It was because of these experiences he became inclined towards organisations engaged in the issues of human and civil rights. Exposure to them inspired him to enroll, after completing his graduation, for Masters at the Centre for Mass Communication, Jaipur. Simultaneously, Satyendra began to work for the media in Jaipur, and encountered in the newsroom the deadly virus of discrimination.
Skate down the map of India to meet Mallepalli Laxmaiah, who is a Telugu columnist of repute, worked for several media outlets, and established Dalit Study Centre. When Laxmaiah was two years old, the landlords of his village, Janagaon, in North Telengana, killed his uncle for insisting on the right of every villager to sit in a special enclosure, under the shade of a tree, which was exclusively reserved for them. His uncle acquired the status of a folk hero in the surrounding villages, for defying the landlords. This story inspired Laxmaiah to resist the oppression of his community and joined organisations adhering to Leftist ideology. In 1987, at the age of 26, he was picked up under the draconian TADA for being part of the CPI (ML). On his release a year later, he faced the dilemma of selecting a career that could provide him a livelihood without steering him away from activism. He chose journalism over pursuing the legal profession, as to become lawyer he’d have to study for a few years more.
Through his writings he exposed atrocities and the deplorable condition of the Dalit communities. Yet he also realised the pervasive presence of antagonism in the media against Dalits and issues pertaining to them, developing a theory of his own on why certain stories are played up and others ignored. “The media,” he said, “has five Cs governing it.” He listed these as Controversy, Crime, Cinema, Cricket, and Corporate. Only a story falling in one of these five categories is covered. He added sardonically, “Violence against Dalits comes under Crime and is consequently covered. All other aspects of their life don’t make for a story.”

 

“The media,” Mallepalli Laxmaiah said, “has five Cs governing it.” Controversy, Crime, Cinema, Cricket, and Corporate. “Violence against Dalits comes under Crime and is consequently covered. All other aspects of their life don’t make for a story.”

 

In Hyderabad also lives Chanti Kranti Kiran, who is the Input Editor of V6 News, a TV channel that Dalit Congress MP G Vivek owns. Its world is the inverse of media outlets you find generally. For instance, you can count in V6 News Brahmins and Kamma employees on your fingers and perhaps still not reach the number 10. But Kiran’s wasn’t a smooth, straight journey to V6 and, as is true for so many other Dalits, he too encountered speed-breakers and precipitous turns.
Imparting lessons in courage to Kiran was his father, a schoolteacher and social activist who worked with SR Shankaran, the legendary IAS officer. Among the tasks entrusted to Papa Kiran was to click photographs for documenting evidence against public places practicing untouchability. On these field trips Kranti Kiran went for the first time when in Class XI, learning that segregated social arrangements were neither legal nor humane. Considering his background, it seemed natural for him to participate in movements for Dalit and civil rights, and then to enter the media, which lull the conscionable into believing that their efforts are a blow, however light, for social justice. Till then, Kiran had fought for the dignity of others; in the media he was to fight for his own.
These six men of different ages, growing up in different decades, residing in different regions of the country, were led through their interface with the society to accord infinitely greater salience to one of the many identities they, as all of us, have. That was their Dalit identity, and the consciousness it engendered propelled them inexorably towards the media.
But ask the question: would these men have had a different sense of their selves had their fathers been clerks or officers in a metropolis? Would the city-life have facilitated their escape from the web of caste with their wings fluttering? Would they have still joined the media? And for what: money, glamour, the need to have a livelihood and career? I pondered over these questions and then tried to locate journalists whose background was predominantly urban and middle class. The first such person I encountered was one whose perceptions were different from those who I had met.
Do class, urban anonymity provide protection?
Dalit identity and discrimination are perhaps mere footnotes in the life story of Sanghpriya Gautam, whose sartorial elegance, etiquette, and style of conversation could have you slot him with the swish crowd of urban Delhi. Son of a government official based in Delhi, he knew life for his family wasn’t always comfortable – his grandfather, after all, had retired as clerk from the Combined Defence Services canteen. No doubt, he had heard stories about the family’s hard days in the past. But then, as they say, seeing is believing, and what he didn’t experience he couldn’t consider it as his lot. Sanghpriya didn’t encounter caste biases in the Kendriya Vidyalaya he studied, and definitely not in Jawaharlal Nehru University from where he graduated in Russian.
Yes, he was interested in social issues, but the primary motivation for him to take the IIMC entrance examination was to remain, as he said, close to JNU, which abuts the media institute. Don’t get him wrong, he wasn’t dreaming of a Communist revolution and waging war on Capitalism; he was besotted with JNU for its bewitchingly liberating ambience. Over the phone I had told him about Uniyal’s piece and he had googled it to read it, eager to critique it as soon as we sat in at Café Coffee Day on Tolstoy Marg. “Uniyal’s piece is outdated. Journalism is a passion-driven profession. Our motivations are now different. Economic liberalisation offers us new opportunities.” Sanghpriya lasted all of ten days in a premier national TV network, his spirit dampened by their definition of news, and has no regret for opting for another career as journalism wasn’t an obsession with him.
The bustling city of Delhi may have embraced Sanghpriya with the warmth of egalitarianism, but it did not his batchmate, Naveen Kumar, who walks with a bounce, and has a touch of insouciance about him. His father is an engineer and Class I officer in Delhi, but because he was the first in the family to leapfrog into the middle class, he had to shoulder a disproportionate share of familial obligations – there was, for instance, family debts to be repaid. “It takes two-three generations for a family to become financially secure,” Naveen said to me as we sat sipping tea in a corner of Delhi’s Press Club.
Perhaps the need to save every paisa, or because of the sense of entitlement, Naveen availed of the facility Kendriya Vidyalas extended to Dalits – they paid a monthly fee of Rs 25, against the Rs 200 others did. It caused much heartburn among students, who would ask loud and clear: why do they pay only Rs 25? Invariably, someone would snigger and answer: “They are Chura-Chamar and even Naveen is an SC”, singling him out because he dressed well. Deeply hurt, he complained to his father about the taunt he was constantly subjected to. Ignore them, his father said.
Years later, while studying in an evening college affiliated to Delhi University, Naveen momentarily flattened the rigid social hierarchy through a relationship with an upper caste girl, who, horror upon horror, had earlier turned down the overtures of a boy from her community. The incensed Jat Sikh students picked a fight with Naveen, and issued a fatwa barring him from entering the college. He didn’t turn to his father for help. Instead, he complained to Delhi University’s Ambedkar Students Organisation (ASO), which threatened to invoke the Scheduled Caste and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act against the guilty students. The ban was promptly rescinded. A fiery ASO activist was born.
From stage to stage he hopped delivering passionate speeches, and also harboured the wish to undertake a comparative study of Ambedkar and Gandhi. He cleared the Delhi University entrance examination for MA in philosophy, but found the classes conducted in English difficult to comprehend. He took the suggestion of a friend: “Take the IIMC examination,” the friend said, “you can continue your activism through journalism.” In 2007, Naveen entered IIMC. Caste sneaked in with him there as well.
I turned to journalists from cities not counted among the five metros. Vipashana Kamble, today, works in Mumbai as a senior copy editor on the city desk of The Times of India, but much of her early life entailed skipping from Akola to Aurangabad to Kolhapur, where her father, a lawyer from Latur, was selected as a member (judge) of the industrial court. His selection changed her class, but not her caste identity, of which she and her brother were already aware of before they joined their father in Mumbai.
This awareness was partly because of the stories their parents narrated about their own childhood. Invariably, at least in her father’s account, there were details of distressing experiences he had encountered, emanating from who he was: a Dalit. Her Dalit identity was reinforced because the neighbours in those three towns never forgot to remind her mother about her caste. Her mother resented the surname of Kamble which was substituted for her earlier, more ambiguous family name of Jagatkar on her marriage. So when Vipashana was asked for the first time in school about her caste, she said, “I don’t know.”

You’d think cities in the Hindi heartland would bear severely on their Dalit residents. But then, providence provides protection againstdiscrimination through inconceivable ways. Animesh Biswas belongs to Bengal’s Namashudra community, but he grew up in Kanpur, to where Indian Railways posted his father 20 years ago. In the perpetually simmering caste cauldron of Uttar Pradesh, Animesh was identified as a Bengali. He was not deemed to have a caste. Munching on a plate of crisp honey potato in a Chinese restaurant at Connaught Place, Animesh said he didn’t encounter discrimination in school, in Delhi’s Hans Raj College or IIMC.

He spoke of his Scheduled Caste background at a decibel audible to others at adjoining tables, in contrast to some who chose to converse in a low voice at public places. Not one instance of discrimination, I asked to jog his memory. He laughed and said, “Only now. When I respond to ads under the category of Caste No Bar on Shaadi.com and tell them about my Namashudra background, communication ceases at once.” He said he took the IIMC examination because he thought his BA degree in history would be a useful resource for media studies. A few years later, though, Animesh was to veer away on a course different from journalism.

The ten stories you have read so far can’t be extrapolated to build a theory. Nevertheless, Dalits who experienced caste-based discrimination and oppression in its more severe forms were inclined to view the media as a tool of resistance or reform, as against those whose Dalit identity was built predominantly upon the narratives of elders. The latter tended to view the media as the site for building a professional career.

Stumbling upon identity

The vital role parents play in how a person constructs his or her idea of self inspires some Dalits living in a metropolis to emphasise on the class rather than the caste identity. Yet, such attempts unravel as caste pops out inadvertently. Take Divya (name changed), whose father, a Junior Warrant Officer in the Indian Air Force, decided to settle his family in Ghaziabad, into which the city of Delhi has now merged seamlessly. (Divya uses a surname but it has been deliberately held back to ensure her identity isn’t revealed accidentally)

 

The vital role parents play in how a person constructs his or her idea of self inspires some Dalits livingin a metropolis to emphasise on the class rather than the caste identity..

Divya lives in a typical middle class colony. Typically too, neighbours bicker and engage in arguments there. When Divya was in Class X, her mother and their neighbour had an argument, and as neither relented, it turned into a nasty quarrel. Upset, Divya’s mother remarked aloud, “They only have to find an excuse to trouble us.” It seemed an irrational statement to Divya, who ticked off her Mom: why would you say that? Perhaps discerning the tone of disapproval in her daughter’s voice, she spilled out the truth, upset and angry as she was. “Because we are Scheduled Caste,” said the mother.

This statement had Divya reeling under shock. Her initial response was: why didn’t you tell me earlier? Later, Divya began to join what she called “the dots in my life.”  There were children of her age in the colony who had been averse to befriending her. To her mother, Divya said, “All my life I thought there was something wrong with me. But now I know it was all because of my caste.” Subsequently, Divya’s father lectured her on the grating intricacies of the caste system, the status of Dalits, and the philosophy of reservation.

She grasped the crash course on caste, but she also took a decision – she would reveal her caste to only those whom she considered her true friends. “Why should I tell them who I am and have them judge me from the stereotype they have inherited from their parents,” she told me in the Barista coffee shop in Defence Colony. She stuck to this decision in a prestigious Delhi college, from where she graduated in journalism, which she had opted for at the suggestion of her father. Ironically, during her stint in the English media, which dons the garb of liberalism and modernity with elan, her boss became obsessed about identifying her social coordinates through questions she found distressing.

Belated discovery of her Dalit identity was also the case with Ankita Kumar, who did her diploma from IIMC in English in 2011 and now handles the social media account of an insurance company. Both her parents are Air India executives. Perhaps they did not want caste to wriggle into their middle class existence, or perhaps they were waiting to tell Ankita the truth at the time it was absolutely necessary – for instance, before she was to seek college admission that requires those applying for seats in the reserved category to submit caste certificates.

It was Ankita’s cousin who told her who she was. It numbed her with fright. Discussions on caste would freeze her into silence, as these invariably reminded her about the identity she had kept secret from others. When questioned by her friends about her caste, Ankita would stonewall them, “The only thing I know is that I am from Uttar Pradesh.” Ankita didn’t want to own up to her identity because she was apprehensive of losing her friends, believing they wouldn’t want to associate with Dalits.

So then, why did she agree to interact with me? She said her worldview had changed. “I am dating a Pandit, a ‘high caste’ boy according to society,” she wrote to me, choosing to interact over the email as she said she would feel uncomfortable answering my questions in a face-to-face meeting. “He loves me deeply. My caste doesn’t matter to him. I guess this explains my confidence,” Ankita explained. For a person who hadn’t glimpsed the menacing visage of caste, other than the anxiety her cousin induced in her through his revelation, it wasn’t surprising she chose to join IIMC because it was what others around her too were doing.

It is also paradoxical that affirmative measures for Dalits can shatter the comfortable anonymity city-life offers them, and lead to their stigmatisation. Earlier, as we have seen, Naveen Kumar’s first brush with caste prejudices was because of the concessional school fees he paid. In some ways, it was the also the experience of D Karthikeyan, The Hindu’s principal correspondent in Madurai.

Born in a remote village of Kanyakumari district, he shifted to Coimbatore, where he went to a government-aided Christian school. He knew he was Dalit, but not what it symbolised to others. This knowledge seeped into him every time the office clerk called out the “names under the SC list” for collecting scholarships. This differential treatment, meted out insensitively, made him feel “bad”, as it did other Dalit students.

 

Affirmative measures for Dalits can shatter the comfortable anonymity city-life offers them, and lead to their stigmatisation.

 

Over the years, Karthikeyan read Periyar and Ambedkar and organised students to fight for their rights on caste basis. He subsequently went to the Centre for the Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta, to pursue his M.Phil, where to him was underscored the importance of participating in the intellectual sphere. Unable to secure a fellowship for PhD in the London School of Economics, he entered journalism, going on to hunt stories pertaining to the Dalit issue for his newspaper.

Ultimately, as the example of Karthikeyan demonstrates, what you make of what happens to you – ranging from the unbearable to the terrible to the insignificant – also depends, perhaps crucially, on the sensibilities of the individual, whether he or she struggles for their rights or merges into the quiescent mass.

Remember some of these people mentioned here. They are going to pop in and out in subsequent sections.

 

**********************************

Cast of Characters

1)  Santosh Valmiki

Mother was a manual scavenger; he sold newspapers for a living. He’s now a principal correspondent, Hindustan, Lucknow

2) Ved Prakash

As schoolteacher, he was beaten up by upper castes. He works as assistant producer, Total TV.

3) Ashok Das

Clerk’s son, upper caste colleagues didn’t want to live with him. He publishes and editsDalit Dastak, a monthly.

4) Satyendra Murli

Mother, sister evicted from temple, experienced caste biases in the media. Now withHindustan.

5) Mallepalli Laxmaiah

His uncle was killed, and he was picked up under TADA. Columnist with Telugu newspapers, founded Dalit Study Centre.

6) Chanti Kranti Kiran

Helped father collect evidence against untouchability, he is now Input editor, V6 News, Hyderabad.

7) Sanghpriya Gautam (English)

A JNU student; never faced discrimination. He left a premier TV channel to join PR.

8) Naveen Kumar

Barred from a Delhi college on account of caste, in media taunted for his caste, he is now in a Hindi daily.

9) Vipashana Kamble

Daughter of an industrial court judge, she is now a senior copy editor, The Times of India, Mumbai.

10) Animesh Biswas

Grew up in Uttar Pradesh, he never faced discrimination. Left journalism for PR.

11) Divya

Discovered she was Dalit late in life, she worked in a Delhi newspaper for two years Wants to go for higher studies.

12) Ankita Kumar

Discovered her caste late, she hid her identity from friends. She currently handles a social media account of an insurance firm.

13) D Karthikeyan

Felt bad when his name would be announced for SC scholarship in school. He’s now the principal correspondent, The Hindu, Madurai.

(The author, a Delhi-based journalist, thanks Sunit Tandon and Anil Chamadia for their invaluable assistance and guidance in this project. He can be reached at[email protected])

 

Read more here — http://thehoot.org/web/home/storypage.php?storyid=6956&mod=1&pg=3&sectionId=19&valid=true

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International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

 (March 21, 2014)
The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is observed annually on 21 March. On that day, in 1960, police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa, against the apartheid “pass laws”. Proclaiming the Day in 1966, the General Assembly called on the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination.
In 1979, the General Assembly adopted a Programme of activities to be undertaken during the second half of the Decade for Action to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination. On that occasion, the General Assembly decided that a week of solidarity with the peoples struggling against racism and racial discrimination, beginning on 21 March, would be organized annually in all States.
Since then, the apartheid system in South Africa has been dismantled. Racist laws and practices have been abolished in many countries, and we have built an international framework for fighting racism, guided by the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The Convention is now nearing universal ratification, yet still, in all regions, too many individuals, communities and societies suffer from the injustice and stigma that racism brings.
Racial discrimination
Racial and ethnic discrimination occur on a daily basis, hindering progress for millions of people around the world. Racism and intolerance can take various forms — from denying individuals the basic principles of equality to fuelling ethnic hatred that may lead to genocide — all of which can destroy lives and fracture communities. The struggle against racism is a matter of priority for the international community and is at the heart of the work of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The United Nations has been concerned with this issue since its foundation and the prohibition of racial discrimination is enshrined in all core international human rights instruments. It places obligations on States and tasks them with eradicating discrimination in the public and private spheres. The principle of equality also requires States to adopt special measures to eliminate conditions that cause or help to perpetuate racial discrimination.
Message of the Secretary-General for 2014
This year, the world commemorates the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination for the first time following the death of former South African President Nelson Mandela.
This sad reality is also a reminder of his courageous struggle against apartheid and his inspiring victory over the racist forces that had imprisoned him for 27 years.
The United Nations General Assembly, in a show of solidarity with the anti-apartheid movement, established this Day to commemorate the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre, when 69 people were killed and many others injured as police opened fire on a peaceful protest against South Africa’s appalling pass laws.
Nelson Mandela’s journey from prisoner to President was the triumph of an extraordinary individual against the forces of hate, ignorance and fear – and it was a testimony to the power of courage, reconciliation and forgiveness to overcome the injustice of racial discrimination.
He chose Sharpeville for the historic signing of South Africa’s new Constitution in 1996. On that occasion, President Mandela said, “Out of the many Sharpevilles which haunt our history was born the unshakeable determination that respect for human life, liberty and well-being must be enshrined as rights beyond the power of any force to diminish.”
Today, we remember Sharpeville as a symbol of the terrible toll of racial discrimination, and we honour those who lost their lives during the massacre. At the same time, we recall that President Mandela framed Sharpeville’s legacy as an unwavering resolve to protect the dignity and rights of all people.
The lessons of South Africa’s staunch defence of equality “out of the many Sharpevilles” in the country’s history can be applied anywhere in the world, not only in response to organized, institutional forms of racism but wherever this pernicious problem occurs, including in daily interpersonal relations.
I call on all people, especially political, civic and religious leaders, to strongly condemn messages and ideas based on racism, racial superiority or hatred as well as those that incite racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. On this Day, let us acknowledge that racial discrimination remains a dangerous threat and resolve to tackle it through dialogue inspired by the proven ability of individuals to respect, protect and defend our rich diversity as one human family.
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Press Release – Ugly face of racism crops once again in Bangalore

Praja Rajakiya Vedike

Press Release

 

Street Protest in Bangalore

Street Protest in Bangalore (Photo credit: johntrathome)

Magistrate court grants bail to Northeast people, who were arrested

Mob uses sexually abusive language against the Northeast women

 

Bangalore, 28 Feb 2014: The ugly face of racism cropped up once again in the city as some local people of Kirloskar Layout in Peenya Police limits attacked a group of Norteast people (hailing from Arunachal Pradesh), who failed to get protection from the police and instead were beaten up and taken into custody by the police, who framed false charges here on Tuesday night and in the early hours of Wednesday.

In the midnight of Tuesday, a neighbour knocked his home and when the Northeast person opened the door he was slapped thrice. The victim, with his friends, was celebrating their local harvest festival, when he was beaten up. And when he called up the police, the Peenya police instead of taking his complaint and providing protection, beat up all the four Northeast men and took them into custody at 1.30 am.

One person from Arunachal Pradesh, Nage Nomo, was injured badly and had bruise marks on his back and other places. On Wednesday morning they were also threatened and abused. A group of people from Praja Rajakiya Vedike, who run the North-East helpline and lawyers from Alternative Law Forum rushed to the police station and tried to settle the issue in an amicable manner. Even in front of the group, some police started making racist comments against the Northeast people and started asking us why you local people are supporting Northeasterners. A big mob of men (local people) have also used sexually abusive language against the Northeast women.

The locals even placed empty packets of condoms in the room of the Northeast people to falsely implicate them and the police appeared to be pressurised by the local leaders and a family member of an MLC.

The police, under the leadership of Sandeep Patil, DCP-North organised a meeting of some local leaders, Northeast leaders, Praja Rajakiya Vedike representatives, Alternative Law Forum representatives for a dialogue to prevent any flare up. Praja Rajakiya Vedike appreciates this initiative.

The four Northeast people arrested under false charges were granted bail by the Magistrate court today.

Our demands:

1. All Police personnel should be sensitised on issues of Northeast, racial diversity and cultural diversity

2. Recruit Northeast people in to Karnataka Police to make it racially diverse

3. State governments of Karnataka and Northeast states, central government, national and state women’s commissions must prevent sexual harassment against Northeast women and ensure their safety

4. Governments should take immediate steps to end racial discrimination and take serious actions against racial labelling (false accusations of drug use, prostitution etc.)

5. Governments should undertake a major public education campaign about cultural diversity, racial diversity through mass media and people-to-people dialogues

 

 

 

 

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#India – Open Letter by trans masculine people

Rainbow flag. Symbol of gay pride.

Rainbow flag. Symbol of gay pride. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

Dear members of the expert committee on transgender issues set up by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment,

 
 
We would like to first of all thank the MSJE for taking up the issue of

trans people in the country. We would also like to appreciate the steps

taken by the ministry to address the concerns of our trans

communities. As you all know, in India, because of the large numbers

of our trans sisters and the remarkable way in which they have come

together and organised politically and supported each other, everyone

thinks trans people means only hijras. But trans men also exist. This is

a fact that the government also overlooks when making policies and

programmes for trans people. A case in point being the Aravani

Welfare Board in Tamil Nadu which provides services to only aravanis

and not trans men.

 

If trans people are a minority with almost no rights in this country, trans

men are a minority within that minority. It is hence, we feel, important to

give special considerations and additional support to a minority group.

Because we were mistakenly identified as women by parents, doctors,

the state and society at large, it has been very difficult for us to come

out of our homes. For years we were guarded behind closed doors, not

allowed to move freely, forcibly married, teased in schools and

colleges, had to drop out of educational institutions, physically

attacked, verbally abused etc. A lot of these problems our brave Hijra

sisters have also faced. But because they were mistakenly seen as

boys, they were free to roam around and find other trans people.

Because their Hijra mothers made space for them, they were able to

leave their homes and live with their trans sisters and mothers. We

don’t have that. We struggle for years alone before we find another

trans man. We struggle for years before we can find a job, independent

housing, find health facilities including Sex Reassignment Surgery

[S.R.S] and overall Trans and General Healthcare. We are sure our

trans sisters will also agree that sometimes words fail to

explain how difficult it is for us to just survive in a society that is so

patriarchal and transphobic.

 

We, as trans men admire and respect the courage of our trans sisters

who have led the way for LGBTI rights in India. We are learning to

organise ourselves from them and are in the process of doing that.

 

Just like there are hijras, kinnars, mangalamukhis, aravanis, kothis,

jogappas, shiv shaktis among trans women as identities, there is a

wide range of trans masculine expressions. Some of us have had

surgery, some of us haven’t, some of us are more masculine, others

are more fluid in their gender expression. We have many names to

identify ourselves like bhaiya, thirunambi, gandabasaka, babu, ftm,

trans man etc.

For an umbrella term, to refer to us in all our diversity, we would like

the use of the term, trans masculine. We do not identify with PAGFB

[Persons Assigned Gender Female at Birth] which is what is being

used in reports and meetings here to describe our identities. We

strongly urge you to refer to us by identities that we assume, not ones

that are imposed on us without due democratic discussions and

consent.

 

We would like to be included in the consultations to formulate

progressive policies for trans people and for trans men and people

identified as intersex to be given an opportunity to put forward our

demands.

 

Since the issues and identities involve such a broad range, we would

like to make a direct submission in front of the committee and put

forward our recommendations. We urge the MSJE to give us some

more time to do larger consultations with the trans masculine

community members and come up with recommendations that would

truly reflect the needs of the community.


 

Sincerely,

 

 

Signed by 74 trans masculine identified people across India whose names are being withheld for our protection.

 

 

 

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Mumbai: Night club denies entry to guest on wheelchair #disability #WTFnews

Friday, Jan 17, 2014, 10:31 IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA
Anup Chandran, a bank employee, had  gone to attend his friend's birthday party at the Tryst club.

Anup Chandran, a bank employee, had gone to attend his friend’s birthday party at the Tryst club.

In an incident which highlights insensitivity towards physically-challenged people,  a 30-year-old Bandra resident was refused entry to a posh night club at Lower Parel,  only because he was on a wheelchair.

The incident happened on January 3 when Anup Chandran, a bank employee, had  gone to attend his friend’s birthday party at the Tryst club. He was denied entry  by the club, saying it was against their policy.

“Eleven of us had booked a table at the club to celebrate Manali Kadne’s birthday.  Around 11.45pm when I went there, the staffers refused to let me in. I was told  that the club does not allow wheelchair users. They said they would lift me out of the  wheelchair and put me in a seat inside, but my wheelchair would not be allowed inside.

It was really embarrassing for me as half of my friends were already inside. I had to  call my friends out and ask them to change the venue,” said Chandran, who had lost  his legs in a car crash nine years ago.

Tryst’s floor manager Akhil Shah said, “It was our management’s call. He could have  occupied more space with the wheelchair and disturbed other guests.”   But Chandran said that was the first time he had experienced such inhuman treatment.

“Before this, wherever I had gone, people were extra courteous and helpful. The way I was  treated at Tryst shocked me,” he said.

Actor Salman Khan’s sister Arpita, Chandran’s friend and an eye-witness to the entire  episode, tweeted: “Disappointed, disgusted; it can happen to anyone of us. The management  of Tryst was rude and non-empathetic. He was a normal person like us but unfortunately lost  his legs in an accident, Is he not allowed to live a normal life like us? A friend of mine wasn’t  allowed inside Tryst because he was on a wheelchair, Is that fair? Apparently, it’s their club  policy.”

Legal experts have opined that the club administration had committed a blunder  by denying entry to Chandran.

Advocate Jamshed Mistry said, “A night club is supposed to be a public place for  amusement.

There is no question of stopping someone on the ground  of being on a wheelchair. When his (Chandran) friends had booked a table and had paid for  his entry, then the club had no rights to stop him. It was wrong on the part of the staff  to suggest that they lift him. If Chandran wants, he can lodge a complaint with the office  of the chief commissioner for persons with disabilities against the discrimination  meted out to him.

 

Read more here — http://www.dnaindia.com/mumbai/report-mumbai-night-club-denies-entry-to-guest-on-wheelchair-1952349

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