Human Rights

UK Dalits and Ambedkarite Orgs Protest Anti-Dalit Violence in Maharashtra

LONDON:  Dalit, Ambedkarite and South Asian organizations in the UK have expressed their concern at the renewed wave of anti-Dalit violence in Nashik in the western Indian state of Maharashtra.

In the over a week long violence Marathas are reported to have beaten and  injured Dalits forcing them to flee for their lives. Dalits’  houses have been vandalized and vehicles have been burnt to ashes.

In a joint letter addressed to Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, representatives of  five leading organisations have said that not only no arrest has been made by “by the Maratha dominated Police force till date, but we have strong evidence that the Nashik Police is actively beating up Dalit families in their own homes instead of protecting them from the Maratha mob.”

The letter has been signed by Eugene Culas, Voice of Dalits International; Santosh Dass,  Federation of Ambedkarite and Buddhist Organizations UK; Ravi Kumar, Anti Caste Discrimination Alliance; Meena Varma, Dalit Solidarity Movement; Saunvedan Aparanti, South Asia Solidarity Group

The Marathas are the most populous, privileged-caste group in Maharashtra and dominate in all sectors including agriculture and politics.  The recent anti-Dalit violence is a reaction to the refusal of Dalits to accept Marathas’ caste superiority and the assertion of their constitutional and human rights.

The recent spate of anti-Dalit violence follows the similar pattern that was adopted by saffron organisations in the massacre of Muslims in Muzaffarnagar  in 2013 and have been using the alleged gang rape of a high caste girl in Nashik by Dalit boys to foment anti-Dalit hatred. They are using the incident as a pretext to pressurize the state  government  to  to scrap laws introduced to curb anti-Dalit violence like the SC & ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and demand reservations (positive discrimination) in government gobs for Marathas.

 

Following is the full text of the letter.

To
Shri Devendra Fadnavis
Chief Minister
Government of Maharashtra
and
Prime Minister Narendra Modi
17th October 2016

We are extremely concerned about the emerging reports from the ground of police collusion in atrocities against Dalits in Nashik by Maratha mobs, which have been taking place since 8th October. Not only has not a single arrest been made by the Maratha dominated Police force till date, but we have strong evidence that the Nashik Police is actively beating up Dalit families in their own homes instead of protecting them from the Maratha mob. The BJP-Shiv Sena Government of Maharashtra has been sitting on the fence and allowing this dangerous situation to escalate, while a number of other parties and politicians are covertly providing support to the Maratha agitation. More details of recent events are set out below.

We demand that

  • The BJP-Shiv Sena government of Maharashtra takes immediate action to ensure the safety of Dalit citizens
  • Police personnel responsible for Dalit atrocities must be arrested and charged
  • The Marathas involved in systematically instigating and executing violence against Dalits must be immediately arrested and brought to justice.
  • Politicians conspiring and instigating this targeted violence against Nashik’s Dalits must be brought to justice.

Recent Events in Nashik

On Saturday 8th October 2016, a rumour spread across social media that a 14-year-old Dalit boy had molested a minor girl in Talegaon (Nashik district, Maharashtra). The guardian minister of Nashik, Girish Mahajan later stated that the medical authorities have reported that rape has not occurred, and the issue is under investigation. But inflammatory messages regarding this incident had already spread. Ambedkarite Buddhist Dalits were immediately targeted by mobs from the dominant Maratha caste. In some parts of Igatpuri, the caste rioters burnt Dalit Buddhist residential houses and vehicles. They entered the houses of the Dalit Buddhist community in Igatpuri brandishing swords and knives and abused and beat them and ransacked their homes. A statue of Dr B. R. Ambedkar was also desecrated.

From late afternoon of 9th October, the caste rioters blocked the Talegoan road. They targeted vehicles displaying Buddhist symbols like Ashok Chakra, pictures of Buddha, Ambedkar, Blue Flags, and Dhamma Flags, and attacked and burnt them. Nearly 20 vehicles were burnt on the Nashik-Agra highway. The caste rioters burnt down nearly 20 homes of Dalit Buddhist families. Most of the Dalit Buddhist families in Talegaon have been forced to leave their homes.

The Maratha rioters also attacked Dalit Buddhist residents, Buddhist temples and statues of Buddha and Dr BR Ambedkar in Sevgedang, Nanded, Wadiwahne, Gonda, Goti, Ambegoda, Shivli, Khandale, and Gondegaon in  Nashik District.

Police refused to register any FIRs nor did they arrest a single member of the violent Maratha gangs. The district administration failed in their legal duty to visit the affected areas within 24 hours.

On Wednesday 12th October, in the Nashik Road area, the local Police Department targeted the Dalit Buddhist residents in the name of combing operations. They forcibly entered their houses and beat men, women, and children, injuring many and arresting a number of innocent people.

On the same day, around 500 police personnel staged a flag march in the Nashik Road area. The Police beat up Dalit Buddhist residents of Bhim Nagar, Kuber society, Nalanda Society, Adarsh Society and various wards. These attacks on the Dalit Buddhist community in Nashik by the police are continuing on a daily basis since then.

Background

The Marathas are the most populous, privileged-caste group in Maharashtra. They hold sway in the state through agriculture, politics and other influential sectors. However, in recent decades an increasingly educated and empowered Dalit populace has emerged in Maharashtra as a legacy of the social revolution spearheaded by Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar.

Having rejected Hinduism, these Dalit Neo-Buddhists do not adhere to the age-old caste system that has exploited them for centuries and refuse to prostrate before the powerful Marathas. Dalit assertion has caused great consternation within the Marathas. This is evident from the Marathas conspicuously sparing other Dalit groups and selectively targeting Ambedkarite Buddhist homes.

The Marathas first started their agitation in response to the gang rape and murder of a Maratha girl by Dalits in Kopardi, Maharashtra earlier this year. They demanded that the SC & ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act be scrapped and also demanded reservation (positive discrimination) for Marathas. The Act is an important safeguard to protect Dalit and Adivasi (indigenous) communities from abuse by privileged castes.

However, it has abysmal conviction rates and high acquittal rates thanks to the endemic and institutional casteism in the Police, Judiciary and Executive. Instead of strengthening the Act, the Maratha community wants to further water it down in order to weaken Dalits and re-establish their centuries old caste dominion. Demanding caste-based reservation for themselves is also paradoxical as the Marathas have enjoyed caste privileges for millennia and do not suffer any social or economic discrimination unlike the Dalits.

The Marathas have shamelessly exploited the Kopardi gang rape and murder to further their regressive and anti-Dalit agendas. Their rallies are also extremely well planned and organized and resemble political rallies rather than an organic peoples’ movement. Clearly the powerful politicians behind the rallies are hesitant to come out of the shadows and show their faces for fear of losing Dalit votes in elections.

The so-called silent rallies showed their true colors in Nashik in the violence unleashed on Dalits, with the collusion – and most recently the participation – of the police.

We demand that

  • The BJP-Shiv Sena government of Maharashtra takes immediate action to ensure the safety of Dalit citizens
  • Police personnel responsible for Dalit atrocities must be arrested and charged
  • The Marathas involved in systematically instigating and executing violence against Dalits must be immediately arrested
  • Politicians conspiring and instigating this targeted violence against Nashik’s Dalits must be brought to justice.
Eugene Culas, Voice of Dalits International
Santosh Dass,  Federation of Ambedarite and Buddhist Organisations UK
Ravi Kumar, Anti Caste Discrimination Alliance
Meena Varma, Dalit Solidarity Movement
Saunvedan Aparanti, South Asia Solidarity Group
 
Pictures courtesy: thecitizen.in

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