Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A suggestion to The Hindu, Safai Karmachari Andolan,and civil society.

An Open letters to all NGO’s, Dalits and civil society working on Scavenging:

Eradicating scavenging profession without liberating those people permanently is not going to eradicate scavenging. The perfect example is the recent The Hindu article (which was again sidelined) on 26th 2010 October talking of scavenging, the article titled “It’s shortlived rehabilitation for scavengers in Ambala” I quote from the article, “it took us a lot of courage to set those baskets on fire and announce that we were free. But now, for many of us the only way to feed our family is to pick up the same baskect again” said a disheartened worker.”(The caste is missing in theser article completely)
Adding to this the people in Savanur recently protested by smearing human excreata. These all shows that even if they are forced to leave or quit the profession they are not going to get liberated. And the packages or the demands put forth from these movements are not a permanent solution. Since I believe in empowering the scavenging community is the only way to eradicate scavenging. Hence I would discuss the demands focusing on Scavengers.

• Provide free education with monthly scholarship to all safai karmachari children for as many generations as their parents had worked as safai karmacharis.
• Provide job oriented technical education with residential facility and Job placements to the dependent youth of safai karmacharis .
• Provide support for dignified livelihood to safai karmachari women in accordance with their choice of livelihood schemes.
Above point on free education is a long sighted demand, but they are not clear. For example in government schools and colleges they are free with the nominal amount. It the demand says clearly that and children of scavengers should be allowed to have any education (medicine, engineering etc) the government should bear the responsibility.
After the free education is given how do we address the job? And even the present scavengers sons are educated? What about them?
Therefore the movement should press for a separate reservation for scavengers sons, and daughters.
In relation to the sweepers working in government institution should be promoted in 10 years time, and these community should be give free medical treatment, even if they have to approach the private hospitals.
The points proposed by Safai Karmachari Andolan’s can be seen below.
Our Demands
• An official apology from the Government of India for violating the human dignity and human rights Safai Karmcharis for over 3 thousand years.
• Eradicate Manual Scavenging
• Demolish Dry Latrines
• Implement the 1993 Act Strictly.
• Punish Violators of the Act 1993
• Punish Dry Latrine Owners and all those who forced safai karmacharis for cleaning shit under the SC/ST Atrocity Prohibition Act 1989.
• Rehabilitation Package
• Release Immediate relief of Rs. 10,000 for safai karmacharis
• Provide minimum 5 Lac rupees to safai karmacharis to take up dignified occupations.
• Provide 5 Acre fertile land to safai karmacharis for dignified livelihood
• Give Antyodaya Card to safai karmacharis
• Provide houses to safai karmacharis
• Provide special pension for single safai karmachari women.
• Provide special pension for aged safai karmacharis
• Provide free education with monthly scholarship to all safai karmachari children for as many generations as their parents had worked as safai karmacharis.
• Provide job oriented technical education with residential facility and Job placements to the dependent youth of safai karmacharis .
• Provide support for dignified livelihood to safai karmachari women in accordance with their choice of livelihood shemes.
• Register the assets created for safai karmachari women in their name only

check the link for full detail on the SKA movement

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

THE SACRED SHIT: A response to Dr. Anand teltumbde's writing on scavenging

I am tired of reading articles written on scavenging. Usually everyone starts with giving a glamour’s title or sub-title to their article by saying “India Stinking”, “India Untouched” , etc and end up discussing elaborately on shit, which never smells bad while discussing it. The recent article written “hypocracy thy name India” by Anand Teltumbde goes ahead from the normal once to hit the core idea of Dalit movement based on, saying they should think of changing its idea from caste to class.
Overview of Dr. Anand Teltumbde’s writings on Scavenging
Anand teltumdbe has recently wrote articles on the “Savanur “incident (Tehelka, Dalit strategy for respect has failed, Vol 7, Issue 39, Dated October 02, 2010. His writing was published in Tehelka, Countercurrents.org etc. I hope the article gave a wider publicity. And for the same reason I am responding to his writings.
Before going further I would like to summarize the article. The article begins with an elaborative information of the protest and the response after it. Then he talks of the failure of the government mechanisms to implement the 1993 law on Manual scavenging. And he also says about how the Hindu forces were trying to hijack the savanur vote bank through this incident. Later he argues about the dalit movements failure in eradicating the caste system. And the reason he give is that caste cannot unite people rather class.
What stricken me was what was the author’s intention on writing the scavenging issue? Was he concerned of the scavenging people? If so when he speaks of the failure of government laws to ban the profession, why didn’t he research the reason for failure (we cannot just reject by saying there is no commitment for the government authority)? (We should also remember Acts enacted in parliament for SC/ST are not implemented properly. What is the reason behind it).And when he says that the Hindu Sammy and BJP poured into the area, then why didn’t he analyze the reason behind these sammys going to these places.
The issue of scavenging still exists in India because people do not go further the ‘shit’ argument. Either they romanticize or sympathize the scavenging community rather politizing the issue. After so many decades for once Scavengers protested in their usual way (I say usual because most of the Dalit movements took their hereditary job as a weapon or a symbol of their protest.) The protest which should have awakened the Dalit writers to rethink their strategy, but it seems they are adamant in rethinking their stand on the same issue, and rejecting the caste factor involved in it.
I would like to take few of his point and discuss.
1. ……. Ambedkar exhorted his followers to give up clearing and scavenging dead animals, eating their meat and urged them to discard ornaments indicating their caste. Strangely, the Savanur Dalits used the very marker of their dehumanisation as the medium of their protest…..
If we look the protest from the scavengers angle, the protest will not seem to be strange. The shit they clean every day was transformed into a political weapon, as any dalit movement did. For example pariyars taking their work as their weapon. Hence, it is not strange protest, rather it was a shocking protest shown by the scavenging community to the outsiders, who never expected such a protest.

2. ….This fractal, recursive, discrimination speaks of a gross malady within the Dalit movement, a movement which supposedly aims at the annihilation of caste, but paradoxically, uses caste as its cementing force. It has failed to realise that despite sustained failure over six decades to keep Dalits united, caste is not and cannot be a force of unity; it is, instead, a divisive force that splinters…….
First of all let us understand what Dalit movement means. Dalit is not a homogeneous entity anytime, it was never a unified movement. Every sub-caste movement within Dalit community is called as Dalit movement. But all are called Dalit movements for the simple reason they read the issue on caste lines.

3. …….It is high time that Dalits realised that their caste-centric outlook when opposing caste is not only theoretically unsound and morally bankrupt, but is also strategically and empirically wrong. It is high time they shunned the caste idiom and regrouped themselves as a class…….

Let us not underestimate the caste function in India, the Mandal commission would prove the same. Every leaders vote bank in India is caste based.
The issue of Scavenging cannot be bought to class. Most often surprises me is that everyone who speaks on scavenging do agree that the profession is a Caste profession and also agree that the scavenging caste also has non-scavenging community in its caste and they too live backward as equal to the scavenging people. But the writers suddenly shift their argument towards class. Even if they think it is a class problem they why are the Scavenging people who are working in government sector live the same life. Though they are economically powerful. Therefore it is the Caste. 1,86,776(Bangi population)
4. “Living on a prayer Saints and ministers queued up to meet the Bhangis”
This was a caption given in his article, but why this is not to research more. If we look on scavenging the spear headed movement was from the RSS in Gujarat. This is an area were people should look why scavenging is always attracted by the Hindu forces.
For the same reason I would say human excreta or the shit is a ‘scared’ for these people. The Government’s stand and the Dalits stand I want to clarify here on the scavenging issue. For government it is a Scared job, The government never sincerely tried in anyway to eradicate the scavenging profession but rather they wanted to modernize the profession. I perceive the point as if the shit is a scared for the Indian rulers therefore they don’t want the people to touch it in bare hands so they wanted them to were glouses, mask, etc. For NGO’s and dalits it is a evil practice. Hence they try to eradicate the ‘scared’ profession. When Dr. Ambedkar addressed the untouchables he asked for implementation of poona act and a reservation policy. But now people who address the scavenging issue they just wanted them to forcefully leave their jobs without an alternative government mechanism to offer them.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Ayodya verdict and its hype before the Verdict reminds me the book “Who Wants Democracy?” written by Prof. Javeed Alam. One of the points the author makes is in Democracy the majority of the voters are from low middle class families, they expect a change but they feel cheated every elections. Same expectation prevailed among the Muslim community and others on the Ayodya Verdict, thinking the Court would do justice but the court verdict sends a message to the Muslim community that no justice can be given for a ‘minority’(especially muslims inlarge and Christians). The verdict forces them again that they are minority.
Some of the key point in the verdict mentioned in favor of ‘Hindus’. One of the important point, Muslims built a mosque on the debris of a temple. A simple question can be asked, India was constitutionally formed in 1950s. Therefore, should we start reading history and take ‘revenge’? The court read history from the Hindu temple. Before the temple was there any other temple or mosque , is a serious question. People say we should forget the past and start the present as a new chapter in history. The Court verdict proves opposite, the ‘mistakes’ you have done in the past centuries before, should be punished in the present. If we go through the court verdict, Muslims cannot pardon anyone in the country, since the sepoy mutiny. For example: Delhi was once highly populated by the Muslims, they were butchered by hindus during the sepoy mutiny and the British supported the Hindus for doing the same. (read Last Mughal). Overall the verdict asserts, past history whether sad/good belongs and be decided by the ‘Hindus’.
Was the court neutral? I suspect. Before the verdict was pronounced there were different reactions. Let us see some of the significant reaction. The government of India is busy in dealing with Naxals, Kashimiris, CWG problem. But still went ahead with the verdict. One of the important reactions was the government of India did not provide enough security in Uttra Pradesh, before the verdict. Ms. Mayawati criticized the centre for not providing enough security. And the BJP was not interested to show any reaction on the upcoming verdict.
What is the importance of the land? It’s a matter of equality, dignity and self respect. After the verdict pronounced a news paper carried a headlines saying the Verdict kept the India ‘United’ (Deccan Chronicle) and even mass media. For these so-called Hindutva media the Unity means the country being calm. Under the carpet they also prove India can be united only by satisfying or breeding the communal forces. Some papers said that “India proved of its ‘secular’ stand”. They should remember, India was never a secular in its real meaning. The National mass media (Doordarshan) broadcasted Ramayana, Mahabaratha, the state books forces everyone to read Ram killed ravana at class 2, etc. Many movies would bear or show the photos or a celebration of an hindu icon, “Robot” rajini movie recently, adding to this Hindus can get away from any riots, for example, Gujarat riot, Babar Masjith, Mumbai riots, on these occasions Muslims are randomly picked in the name of terrorist, under the act of POTA, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and other draconian laws. (I refer to the Book who killed Karkare, and Listening to Grass hoppers) these all would be enough to prove that Hindutva forces are dominant and India is a Hindu country and not a Secular, which is against the Indian Constitution. The growing hegemony of a Hindu Fascism in India is unnoticed or least bothered by the social movements, civil society etc. As there are many writing which says that the verdict is biased to Muslim, The matter of fact of the verdict in our subconscious reminds us that the muslim community has got nothing from the “Indian Government” in relation to their empowerment. ‘India’ has done very little for this community’s empowerment. Only when this community is empowered, they can look for justice in court or from the government. The Muslim, Dalits other political parties, who have been selling their community should do some good at least,

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