Brinda Karat decries pendency of dalit atrocity cases

Brinda Karat decries pendency of dalit atrocity cases

MADURAI: CPM politburo member Brinda Karat said that about 1.1 lakh cases of atrocities against dalits have been pending in various courts across the country.

Speaking at meeting in Madurai on Saturday to felicitate advocates who fought in the courts for rights of dalits of Uthapuram village, Karat said that according to the National Crime Records Bureau some of the cases have been pending for several years. Reeling out statistics, Karat said that on an average 32,600 odd cases of atrocities against dalits are booked across the country which means every day roughly 93 dalits are affected. “In 2012 alone, more than 45,000 cases of atrocities against dalits have been booked across the country. However, most of these cases remain pending without any progress. Only 23 people who were accused in these cases were convicted in the whole year,” she said. At thes national level, only a meagre 3.6% of the cases against dalits see their logical end and the perpetrators are punished, she said.

She lauded the advocates for their role in Uthapuram incident and said that without the advocates, the atrocities against dalits of the Uthapuram could have continued.

Karat pointed out that the court has ordered distribution of relief to affected dalits of Uthapuram, but the distribution is yet to be completed.

Advocates U Nirmalarani, R Rajkumar, D JAyakumar, P Selvaraj and P Rajan were felicitated at the event. Villagers of Uthapuram who were present at the function said that when they were harassed by the non- dalits of the village, several advocates they had approached refused to appear for them in the court. But the five took up the case and won it. They also refused to take their fee from the villagers in a goodwill gesture.

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Casteist bias alleged in dalit teacher’s eviction from school

Casteist bias alleged in dalit teacher’s eviction from school

 TRICHY: A woman employee of a government-aided school in Trichy has accused the school administration of victimising her on casteist grounds by depriving her of the job. Even the education department in Trichy is accused of supporting the school in acting against the woman. Meanwhile, the school authorities are evading an inquiry ordered by the Trichy district collector after the poor woman’s father filed a complaint against the high-handedness of the school officials.

S Meada, who was working as a secondary grade assistant at Holy Redeemer’s Primary School at Palakkarai, has also complained that she was not paid salary despite working for two years since May 31, 2011. Though, Meada continued to work despite non-payment of salary, she was barred from entering the school on Monday, June 10, when the school re-opened after the summer holidays. Meada’s father T Stephen Raj alleged that the school, which appointed her on a temporary basis, is now easing her out as she is a dalit. “My daughter is being victimised because she is the only dalit to enter the school as a teacher in a century,” Stephen said. He also alleged that the education department in Trichy was hand-in-glove with the school management.

In fact, Meada had secured the job after obtaining an order issued by the top authority of the school management based in Chennai. The former correspondent of Holy Redeemers had even written to the Assistant Education Officer (AEO) on July 19, 2011 that “Selvi S Meada has been temporarily appointed from June 15, 2011 in place of P Lillimary who superannuated on May 31, 2011, and hence you are hereby requested to confirm her appointment.”

 

Trouble started for Meada in Januray 2012, when the then AEO informed the school correspondent that the surplus vacancy of a teacher’s post had been transferred to the director general’s pool! An expert in school administration said this move was not in order as in such cases the employee should be posted to any other school run by the same group before the closure of that academic year. In fact, an RTI statement obtained by Stephen in February this year revealed that there was a vacancy available at St Philomena’s Girls HSS run by the same school management in Trichy, but Meada was not posted there. Instead, an employee from the management’s Chennai-based school was posted at St Philomena’s school. “This transfer had been deliberately done by the school management to deprive Meada her once-in-a-life-time chance to work as a teacher,” said her father, a disabled who could crawl only on his palms to the Trichy district collector’s office to register the complaint.

Raising suspicion on the collusion of school authorities and the education authorities, both the school correspondent and the district education officer Jayakumar boycotted the inquiry scheduled for May 29. It was fixed by the PA general district collector JayashreeMuralidharan. Jayakumar, however, put the entire blame at the doors of the Holy Redeemer school saying that they should not have surrendered the post, and should not have appointed a Chennai-based teacher at their St Philomena’s school. “Since it is a minority school, it is they who should have taken care of the appointments,” Jayakumar reasoned.

Meanwhile, on May 1, the vicar general of Tiruchi diocese wrote to the Sr Provincial in Trichy saying, “The appointment of Meada was not approved by the department due to the inordinate delay (one year) of the correspondent in sending the proposal.”

Commenting on the issue, Folencia Mary, the new correspondent of the school from this academic year told TOI on Friday that “We are not in any way against the teacher concerned. It is the DEO’s office that has instructed us not to let the teacher sign the attendance register. We are ready to offer the teacher her due place if the government is ready to sanction the post in writing.”

Caste curses Dalit, tribal children to life of slavery beyond borders

Caste curses Dalit, tribal children to life of slavery beyond borders

 By Gokul Vannan – CHENNAI

17th June 2013 08:23 AM

Caste discrimination and exploitation of Dalit children are not confined to villages alone as some members of the dominant communities force them into bonded labour in savory and confectionary units run by them in many parts of north India.

Recently, Vadugapatti village near Usilampatti was in the news when a Class VI Dalit boy was forced to carry footwear on his head through a caste Hindu street. But the same village has another story of a 17-year-old Dalit, who has become mentally ill due to physical and psychological torture he had faced at a savory factory in Gujarat, owned by a local businessman settled there.

Confined within a room for the last two years, the victim, T Vairamani, was rescued by his father, Thevamani, from a village in Gujarat. Owner Rohan, a caste Hindu of Usilampatti, had paid `2,000 as advance to Thevamani, a tender coconut vendor, while taking the boy for work at his savory unit.

“Vairmani was forced to work for nearly 20 hours a day. If he asks for rest, Rohan would abuse him in filthy language denoting his caste,” says S Muthu, a social worker attached to Madurai-based NGO Evidence. These days, Muthu takes the boy for regular medical check up at the Government Rajaji Hospital.

Rohan gave spoilt or poor quality food and that too only twice a day, and forced Vairmani to sleep in the kitchen. He also prevented his father from communicating with his son for two years. A restless Thevamani went in search of his son and spent more than a fortnight in Gujarat. Only after he filed a complaint with the Keraloor police, Ravikumar, a relative of Rohan, informed that the boy was safe at his house. “But when Thevamani spotted his son, he had injuries all over the body and was lying unconscious. With the help of then Madurai district collector Sagayam, we treated him for two months in the hospital,” says Muthu.

While Thevamani got back his son, albeit with mental illness, Parvathy of Uthampalyam in Theni district lost her son Surlimuthu within a few months after he was rescued from a confectionary unit in Uttar Pradesh. Incidentally Surlimuthu, a Dalit, had lost his dad Periyasuruli, as an eight-year-old.

On seeing Parvathy struggling to run the family, Sonaikalai, a caste Hindu of nearby Meikilarpatti convinced her to send her son to the factory promising good returns.

“The boy was working for 17 years at the savory unit of one Mahendran, who treated him like a slave,” says Ilayaraja, a social worker with Evidence.

While forcing him to work for 20 hours a day, Mahendran at times scalded him by pouring hot oil on his skin and branded him with a hot iron. When Surlimuthu returned home in 2008, his body was full of injuries. “Though we provided medical treatment, he died within a few months,” says A Kathir, executive director of Evidence.

 

A study of 111 bonded labourers in Madurai, Theni, Dindigul and Virudhunagar districts, revealed that most of the children were Dalits. In northern Tamil Nadu, particularly in Villupuram, Cuddalore, Kancheepuram, Tiruvallur and Tiruvannamalai districts, tribal children were forced to work in brick kilns as bonded labourers, the study showed.

 

“It is distressing that the relief and rehabilitation promised in the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 doesn’t reach the rescued children,” says former south-zone convener, Campaign Against Child Labour, B S Vanarajan.

 

“If the rescued boy/girl is a Dalit, he/she is eligible for addition relief amount of `60,000 under the SC/ST prevention of atrocities Act, 1989 (section 3 (1) (6), but the government is not taking steps to provide relief invoking this Act,” he says.

 

 

SC-ST panel to visit Attappadi with medico-legal expert team

SC-ST panel to visit Attappadi with medico-legal expert team

A team of five retired district judges, medical specialists, health professionals and development officials is undertaking a study in Attappadi in consultation with the State Government.

KOCHI, JUNE 21:  

Following the deaths of more than two dozen children due to starvation and malnourishment in the tribal hamlets of Attappadi in Palakkad district, the Kerala State SC-ST Commission is holding a comprehensive inquiry into the deaths, besides holding a medical camp and socio-economic-environmental study.

A team of commission members and staff, accompanied by medical, legal and environmental experts will camp in the Attappadi area for three days from June 27, P.N. Vijayakumar, Chairman of the Commission, told Business Line.

Apart from recording people’s testimonies regarding the ‘starvation deaths’ and the woeful living conditions of the tribespeople, the commission would make an assessment of the socio-economic life of the tribal community. It would also assess the level of implementation of the various tribal development programmes launched by the government.

Vijayakumar said the team of five retired district judges, medical specialists, health professionals and development officials was making the study in consultation with the State Government. The commission had discussed the initiative with the Chief Minister and other ministers concerned. The report of the people’s testimonies and other inquiries would be presented to the government in a month. The commission would be monitoring the implantation of the recommendations.

Vijayakumar said the team would include paediatricians, gynaecologists and physicians from the Thrissur medical college and Palakkad district hospital; one unit of a private medical lab; and the director of the National Institute of Virology. They would hold a medical camp, provide treatment and dispense medicines.

He said that as soon as the media had reported the tribal children’s death a couple of months back, the commission had sought reports from the Palakkad Collector as well as the district tribal development officer. The Collector had listed 16 causes for the death, including malnourishment, drastic changes in lifestyle, changes in dietary habits, lack of sanitation and epidemics. But NGOs had complained of tardy implementation of government schemes and exploitation of the tribal population among the causes.

Following the official and media reports, the commission, which had earlier registered a suo motu case, decided to have a firsthand in-depth study of the socio-economic and health status of the tribal people that led to the tragic deaths, Vijayakumar said. He noted that the deaths that had even figured in international media, had brought shame on Kerala, which had for long been praised as a mode of a welfare state.

He said the legal experts were included in the team to study how far the legal and statutory rights of the tribes people were being enforced and what steps should be taken immediately to ensure their rights. He also said that the three-day recording of people’s testimonies to be held at the community centre at Agaly on June 27-29, was very important as, he hoped, the people’s views and experiences would bring out the real nature of the starvation deaths.

This is the first time that the SC-ST commission was launching such an big initiative, Vijayakumar said.

basheer.kpm@thehindu.com

(This article was published on June 21, 2013)

Judge: Supreme Court Sign Ban Unconstitutional

Judge: Supreme Court Sign Ban Unconstitutional

In a case that could end with the Supreme Court deciding how much free speech to allow on its own doorstep, a federal judge has thrown out a law barring processions and expressive banners on the Supreme Court grounds.

The ruling is so broad that it could criminalize preschool students parading on their first field trip to the high court.

Harold Hodge Jr. was arrested on the Supreme Court plaza in January 2011 while wearing a sign that criticized police treatment of blacks and Hispanics.

He claimed the law violates the constitution, and U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell agreed. She ruled Tuesday that the statute ran afoul of the First Amendment’s free speech protections.

The Rutherford Institute, a civil liberties organization which challenged the law on Hodge’s behalf, said that ruling “throws a lifeline to the First Amendment at a time when government officials are doing their best to censor, silence and restrict free speech activities.”

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Washington said the office was reviewing the decision.

If the Obama administration appeals, the case could reach the Supreme Court, historically the guardian of free speech rights. That could create the ultimate not-in-my-backyard case, except it would be more about the court’s front yard.

In 2011, Hodge was on the Supreme Court plaza wearing a sign that said, “The U.S. Gov. Allows Police To Illegally Murder and Brutalize African Americans And Hispanic People.”

After Hodge refused a Supreme Court police officer’s order to leave the plaza, he was arrested and given a citation for violating the law.

That law makes it a crime to “parade, stand, or move in processions or assemblages,” or to display a “flag, banner, or device designed or adapted to bring into public notice a party, organization, or movement,” at the high court’s building or grounds.

The charge eventually was dropped in a deal with prosecutors in which Hodge agreed to stay away from the Supreme Court grounds for six months. But after that period was up, Hodge decided he wanted to come back, and this time he was backed by lawyers.

Last year, Hodge sued and said he planned to return to the plaza and picket, hand out leaflets, sing, chant and make speeches.

In a 67-page opinion, Howell, an appointee of President Barack Obama, said that the law’s prohibitions on signs and processions were both overly broad. She wrote that the government “essentially conceded” during oral arguments that the ban on signs would prohibit a group of tourists assembling on the Supreme Court plaza, all wearing T-shirts to bring public notice to their organization — be it a church, school or other group.

The ban on processions, the judge wrote, “could apply to, and provide criminal penalties for, any group parading or assembling for any conceivable purpose, even, for example, the familiar line of preschool students from federal agency daycare centers, holding hands with chaperones, parading on the plaza on their first field trip to the Supreme Court.”

The government argued that the law was a “reasonable limitation on speech,” because it furthered two significant interests: permitting unimpeded access of visitors to the Supreme Court, and preserving the appearance of the court as a body not swayed by external influence.

Howell wasn’t buying it.