This year marks the 75th anniversary of the publication of the book ‘Annihilation of Caste’ by Dr. Ambedkar. Dr. Ambedkar fought with perseverance till his death against the caste system in Indian society. For this cause he incorporated the ideals of democracy, freedom, equality and brotherhood as fundamental principles in the constitution. But even today, the rulers and hegemonic classes in society constantly oppose these principles and are callous in their implementation. That’s why we are going away from the objective of annihilation of caste.
Dalits, tribals and nomadic tribes are stilll striving hard to occupy their rightful place in society, because they always face denial in all key fields of society: education, politics and culture. The response from the dominant castes often violent, expressed through regular and increasing incidences of caste atrocities.
On 28th of April this year at Kharda town, Ahmednagar district in Maharashtra, people from a dominant caste killed 17 year old Dalit boy Nitin Aage brutally. The reason behind this was the fallacious sense of caste superiority of the upper castes. Next incidence of caste atrocity was from Jalna where Sarpanch Manoj Kasab from the Matang community was killed by casteists. This vicious cycle does not stop here, but is followed by the death of a young boy Umesh Agale from Kannad block in Aurangabad district who met the same fate as the others. In metropolitan Pune, migrant worker Mani Kudage was killed by the same kind of caste bigots. His sin was to celebrate Dr. Ambedkar’s birth anniversary.
When we get to Beed, the situation worsens. In Dadegaon, tribal Bhil activist Sanjay Gaikwad was shot dead. Before this incident, in January 2013, a Dalit boy (Valmiki), who loved an upper caste girl, and his two friends (also Dalits) were brutally killed in Sonai village in Ahmednagar. In Indapur, Matang boy Chandrakant Gaikwad was shot dead. Burning of homes, and killings of tribals are regular occurences. Custodial murders are also frequent.
On 29th September 2006 Bhaiyalal Bhotmange’s family members were brutally tortured and killed by castiest villagers in Khairlanji. This incidence of atrocity caused widespread outrage. Ambedkarites came out to protest. The accussed were convicted and awarded life imprisonment. But the state government and the government lawyer succeeded in not appling the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. Ironically, the state government gave the Mahatma Gandhi Tanta Mukt Gaon (‘dispute free village’) award to Khairlanji.
Seven Dalit and four tribal women are raped in Maharashtra every month. These facts are not recognized by any institution. The 2012 statistics show us three dalits and one tribal, on an average, were murdered in Maharashtra, every month. Behind all these incidents is the concrete reality of dominant caste monopoly over political power, wealth and the feudal patriarchical mindset that goes with it. The so-called progressive state has completely failed to address issues of dalit and tribal atrocities. Proper application of atrocity prevention act has been not ensured by the state government. In March 2014, Ambedkarite forces succeeded in incorporating new amendments in atrocities act for bringing in more transparency in the justice system. The new Lok Sabha should be made to pass the bill, so we have to unite all progressive forces in support of the bill.
Another vital issue concerns the economic progress of the Dalit and tribal populations. We have to organize all weaker sections to force the government to work for our constitutional rights. In case of Maharashtra, the government the has denied the Dalits an estimated 25,000 crores of rupees meant for their welfare in the last 21 years. The budget for dalits and tribals should be reserved following the Karnataka pattern. This requires relentless struggle. Maharashtra’s rulers are responsible for unforgivable neglect in the matter of land redistribution to dalits, tribals and nomadic tribes. Instead, they have distributed land to moneylenders, builders and corporate companies shamelessly. Lavasa and Sahara City are such examples. The implementation of the MGNREGA scheme is on a very low scale in the state. Dalits are still too dependent on the dominant communities for their livelihood. That is why it is impossible for them to fight back.
All these issues should be discussed in the public domain and in front of the government. The Pune to Kharda Long March has been organized to focus on these issues. The Long March will start from Phulewada (residence of Mahatma Jotiba Phule) on 22nd May, 2014. at 8.00 a.m. This long march is called for justice and equality. On 28’th of may ‘Kharda Parliament’ is called by Dalit Adivasi Adhikar Andolan and various similar organizations. Here a discussion of nationwide atrocity cases will be carried out. This is an appeal for participation in the Kharda Parliament. It will start at 1.00 p.m on May 28th.
We appeal to people to join us in strengthening the struggle for justice and equality.
What should be done?
1) All these incidents are not of general crime category. Caste dominant mentality and caste based unequal economic and social structures are responsible for these incidents. This fact should be accepted by society and government. This disease should be analyzed properly, and only then can any cure be found. Caste is a chronic disease in Indian society. This bitter truth should not be denied.
2) Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act should be strictly implemented. Every district should have independent courts for these cases. The judgments in these cases should be delivered within three months. Government should appoint a panel of lawyers to attend to these cases.
3) A status report on all atrocity cases that have happened in Maharashtra till date and the judicial developments ensuing from these cases should be published.
4) The Chief Minister should convene periodic meetings to intervene in cases of atrocity, every six months. Action taken reports should be published.
5) A new ordinance incorporating amendments to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act has been framed by the Union government. The new Lok Sabha should permit the ordinance and pass the modified law.
6) Crimes and murders in prison have increased in Maharashtra. People belonging to SC,ST and and religious minority communities are the victims, mostly. This should be stopped with required action. And an independent law should be passed in this regard.
7) Honour killings should be stopped and an independent law brought in to save the lives of young boys and girls.
8) The SC, ST Commissions should be strengthened and their reports published and discussed separately in the state assembly. Action taken reports should also be published.
9) Mahatma Gandhi Tanta Mukti Gaon programme is used to suppress dalits. This anti-constitutional programme should be stopped urgently.
Sunil Dudhe is a member of the Journalism Students Forum.