Friday, February 17, 2012

No sadbhavana for dalits and tribals

Victims of social boycott and forced migration narrate their plight at a public hearing in Gandhinagar

Paras K Jha

l "When I faced social boycott in my village for entering a temple, none of the educated people and government officers who belong to my caste came in my support. On the contrary they asked me why I wanted to go to the temple. Today I live in Sanand, 22 km away from native village, as my parents are afraid I would be attacked by the powerful people of the village. What kind of freedom is this?" — Suresh Jadav, field officer, Navsarjan, Kundal village.

l "I am a tribal. We work as farm laborers on the farms of powerful people of our village. I and my wife were attacked because I was demanding a hike in the daily wages paid to us. When I filed a complaint with the police, the whole village boycotted all the tribal families. We are still facing boycott in our village."

—Shantilal, Sampa village, Karzan taluka

These are just two cases out of hundreds, of Schedule Caste and scheduled tribe people being forced to migrate because of social boycott in their respective villages. The word, 'sadbhavana', appeared to have lost all meaning when people of schedule castes and tribes talked about their suffering at the public hearing organised in Gandhinagar on January 24 by the NGO, Navsarjan.

The jury at the public hearing included human rights activist Gagan Shethi, director of Dalit Shakti Kendra, Martin Macwan; head of department, social work, Gujarat Vidyapeeth Anandi Patel; and Manjula Pradeep, director of Navsarjan. Jury members gave a patient hearing to the Dalits and tribals who had gathered at Dr Ambedkar Hall in Sector 12 of Gandhinagar. They had come from 17 different villages of Gujarat.

The main causes of social boycott and the resulting forced migration were issues like denial of right to enter village temple, rape, encroachment on path to house, eve-teasing of dalit girls and exploitation, among others.

Surprisingly, in some cases, the Dalits who had suffered at the hands of the forward castes were members of district panchayat seats, sarpanch of the village and even well-educated people. Yet none had been able to get justice. Most of the victims and their families are still facing social boycott in their native places. After the public hearing, it was decided to submit a comprehensive report to the state government and to the state human rights commission (SHRC) in this regard.


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