Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Khairlanji verdict expose our national concern on violence against Dalits

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

Khaurlanji’s verdict is out. The Bombay High court did not find the case rarest of the rare. Though, the Maharastra government is going to challenge the verdict in the Supreme Court and we must wait for the same, the verdict has left most of us who were following the case deeply disappointed. But for me the High Court’s judgment not finding it as rarest of the rare reflect that, such things are happening regularly at different parts of the country and we are habitual offenders of the dignity and self respect of the Dalits in the country. Hence if the ‘honorable’ high courts give capital punishment on ‘such normal things’, then a large number of our friends will have to face gallows. We all know how judiciary is being put to pressure by media and political forces. They will shout loudly over the issues and convert a non issue into a national problem but when the issues which should be discussed and focused the media keeps that for a one minute byte or into the middle pages of their news papers.

We can easily establish how media publicized the issue of Jesica Lal or Ruchira case that their families become ‘social activist’ rather than a respondent and played an activist role asking people to protest and come in the street. How can the same media completely sidelining the case of Khairlanji? Why is this that the issue of boycott of Dalit cooks in Uttar-Pradesh and other parts of the country do not attract the same space as Jessica Lal or Ruchira case? The news of Indians being targeted racially in Australia has always made headlines in almost all the news channels and some of them actually following each and every incidents involving Indians in that country. The size of the news is enormous and many of the reports regarding Indians being racially targeted turned out to be faked. Yet, the outrage is high in this country which takes morally high ground against ‘racial prejudices’ yet the news in its own home turf do not make headlines. It is passed as another incident of ‘violence’ against the Dalits. It is not termed as the basic nature of Indian society which has not been able to digest the fact that we have a constitution that empower each citizen of the country and that the Dalits are equal citizens with equal rights. Our editors do not shout and grin as they do on Maoism or terrorism, that this country should hang its head in shame when children learn to discriminate. We always sang song that the children are innocent and do not believe in the caste system, do not know who is big and who is small but if you read what is happening in different parts of the country including Uttar-Pradesh, then we will have to hang our head in shame. Why don’t we discuss this issue so seriously and take the governments, the officials to task. Why does not it become our campaign against prejudices in our society? Why the feelings of our editors and news reporters are not hurt the same way when they shout on any issue and turn the non issue as a major issue. Well, we have to understand that for these racist, the wedding of Mahendra Singh Dhoni was more important than the racial prejudices of children who refused to eat with Dalit children or refused to eat food cooked by the Dalit cooks at school. Unfortunately, rather than taking action against them, the government seem to buckle under the pressure as if that has hurt the sentiments of the upper caste children. Is it because there is no one speaking for them? Is it because the media has conspicuously kept silent on this issue?

The irony is that a few weeks ago, a UP court asked police to file cases against some of the ministers and publishers of ‘Ambedkar Today’, a journal in Hindi, for ‘hurting’ the sentiments of ‘Hindus’ by writing vitriolic language against their Gods. Some years ago, the activists of Vishwa Shudra Mahasabha in Lucknow, were charged for ‘hurting’ the sentiments of Hindus. Periyar is out of Uttar-Pradesh and its BSP’s icon list as the upper castes do not want him as he is the most famously known Ram bashers. The Hindutva brigade said ‘Ram-drohi’ is desh drohi i.e. anti national. So, writing on any fictitious things hurt the sentiments of others but killing as well as justification of killings and discrimination does neither hurt our sentiments nor compel us introspecting our literature and religious texts. ‘How can they hurt our sentiments, traditions given to us by our ancestors’, said a supporter of ban. ‘But I consider Buddha, Kabir, Raidas, Ambedkar, Phule, Periyar, Bhagat Singh as my ancestors’, I told him, and added that I too am bound to respect their sentiments too. All of them asked me to be a humanist and questioned the religious texts too. All of them were rationalist humanists who fought against the ugly racist caste order. How can one enjoy the festivals that celebrate the victory of a racist order on the others who they claimed were ‘Rakshashas’. Times have changed and a thing of 3000 years back may not be true to us and may not be respected. How can our judicial system justify those years old texts when we know well that our constitution which is just 60 years old has the flexibility of changing according to the needs and demands of the time? Why can’t we dump these holy text which continue to guide our children and deny some of them right to live with dignity while give a false sense of superiority complex to others. We need to learn from France in this respect where the constitution wants citizens to follow the egalitarian and secular values of its constitution. W do not need a secular constitution which glorify every act of regression in the garb of multi-culturarlism and where every act of questioning ‘hurt’ the ‘sentiments’ of those who never cared the sentiments of the others.

One is amazed to see why our sentiments are never hurt when children are told to discriminate against each other. How can a country planning to host Common Wealth Games, going to tell the world that racial brahmanical disorder is a thing of past. Is it possible to demolish the caste structure in this country which is suffering from ‘identity’ dilemma?

Caste is the biggest issue in this country. Daily the maximum violence that the Dalits face is because of caste. It is nothing but a false passport to superiority and further developing the clan culture where a few ‘respected’ men decide about the fate of others. Children are being brutally killed and we do not feel shame on it. In fact, we feel proud of ‘protecting’ our honor by killing our children who dared to love. Love is the most hated word in the town but watching the C grade ‘colored’ films are not bad in these sacred heartlands from UP to Bihar to Rajasthan. I do not believe much in the theory that some Indians are better than others as often comparative notes are given to us like Delhi is worst or Mumbai is better or Chennai superior to Hyderabad. All the diversity in India has a commonality of caste and gender discrimination. North, East South West caste seems to be the best for Indians who can not live with out, who are told infinite virtues of their caste and the great achievements of it.

My point is that as far as feudal structure is concerned, that remain intact in India despite a secular constitution. It is a bullying tactics to make all those who look different or dissenters to either fall in line or perish. Hence, if Baba Saheb Ambedkar writes something on the riddles of Hinduism, the protesters are up in arms to burn the book. Even if some body makes an expose of a so-called holy book on our religious faith that hurts the Bahujans and Dalits, he will surely face criminal action for hurting the sentiments of the people. In Indian context we will have to understand the exploitation and annihilation of the Dalit culture by these fascist elements. Yet, they want no further study on the subject. The subaltern history is coming with new ideas and new explanation of every brahmancial text and that is creating ripples in the minds of these elements. Hence a film like Teesari Azadi was termed as ‘ Zaharili CD’, a poisonous propaganda material by many in the media asking for a complete Ban on it while the film was just explaining how crooked our caste system was and how the Brahmins manipulated the system for their benefit. What is wrong in it? Have we not seen the annihilation of Buddhist culture, and its cooption as well as destructions of Buddha Viharas by the brahmanical forces? Why are the historians and social anthropologists silent on it? One has to understand the movements of the Dalit Bahujan and their effort to get out of the clutched of the brahmanical value sytem. One will have to understand the meanings of these festivals. Every major festival is a celebration of some killings or work of treachery over the Dalit Bahujan masses. How can any right thinking person celebrate such festivities, but these forces want us not to question those festivals, not to question those celebrations. Fine, but why should we celebrate them. Not celebrating them becomes a droha, a challenge to the country. Whatever we do but new thesis, new question will always be raised on these texts and we must be prepared to face all of them.

If we know the Indian system and how work then we should not be surprised. As a nation, we have not grown and develop into an egalitarian democratic society. A democratic society is only possible where social system is based on democracy. A society segregated so much on caste lines can not really built a democratic culture in the country. Here, we feel proud of our caste being higher then the other one. We continue to bow to those in ascending order and regularly assault and humiliate those in the descending order. It is not surprising therefore that we still have millions of manual scavengers, carrying human excreta manually and we do not feel any shame in it. Our heart does not melt when we see young children who should have been in the school but carry night soil. How will our heart melt when the so called civil society, opinion makers, middle classes have a small chhotu at their home who take the heavy bags of their children to school bus and regularly do the service. How can we ever feel the shame when we have employed these chhotus at our home virtually buying them from their helpless parents?

Khairlanji verdict shocked us but still the reaction is calm unlike the time of the incident that raised fire in Mahrastra. We thought a new movement is on the way when the Dalits protested there. A few committed workers worked on the case while a majority of forgot it after a few days pilgrimage. Why should case of such a magnitude which shook us is termed as a Dalit issue alone? Why as human being and fellow national we do not feel the same pained and agony on these issues? The attitude of Mahrastra government was disgusting. See the contrast. When you have fight against Muslim accused, the media, the Hindutva and the ‘nationalist’ all join hand in the common ‘national’agenda but Khairlanji does not bother them, the denial of dignity to Dalit children in school does not bother them.

The basic question is why is there a regular denial of justice? Who will judge the judges who do not take these issues seriously while give certain judgments that hurt the basic premise of our constitution? Our government and political class will have to think on these issues more seriously. How can a judge leave the cases in the absence of ‘credible’ evidence? But the fact is that the state has no desire to get justice. It does not provide any credible evidence and then want us to blame it to the judges only.

The word of Baba Saheb Ambedkar remained prophetic as ever when he describes the nature of our villages. Truly, the villages still live in darkness, in caste identities, in feudalism. Yes, when I went to Allahabad recently where upper caste goons tried to molest a Dalit woman, demolished her home, beat her mercilessly along with her child and her husband and to my deep shock and anguish none ‘saw’ the incident. Not a single person in the village ‘saw’ it. There are numerous incidents where we have brought to the notice of the authorities but do not have ‘credible’ ‘evidence’. That does not exist. Once, I filed a report on manual scavenging and I am still getting letters that it does not exists in that part because the municipality say so. How interesting is this system is that you file a complaint against some one and the same person is made responsible to answer your question.

How can you get credible evidence when an entire village turns up against the person belonging to a particular community? Where is the credible evidence against those who are killing their own children in the name of ‘honor’? Is not it a shame when those who kills people in the name of honor terming it their ‘culture’ and asking the government to ‘bend’ on their whims and fancies and look how it is ‘crawling’ to the demands of such ‘civilized’ people.

Indian society is still a primitive society which has no space for dissent despite its pretensions to look modern and democratic. Whether it is Khairlanji or Tsunduru, Dalits face violence for being biggest dissenters of the brahmanical system. The fact is once you realize the treacheries of the system, you will become a dissenter. Asking for your right to live with dignity and self respect has become the biggest obstacles for the brahmanical forces. They have turned these democratic demands as dissent and seek to suppress it with violence. Such violence is happening daily but the struggling masses do not cow down to such intimidations. The courts verdict on Khairlanji is similar like what happened in Kanpur where authorities just let the incident happen. But these have raised serious issues of propriety. As a democratic nation which is claiming to become world leader, should such incident be allowed to go unchallenged? When the Indians make so much noises of discrimination against them outside India, why should we not make similar demand from the Indians who go abroad? Should not the government ask its employees to take oath in believing in secular constitution and asking its people to be non religious and non casteists. Should we not ask the foreign government to be very strict with Indians and Indian government on these issues of caste discrimination and caste violence?

The issues of violence against Dalits in India put serious question mark about our judicial system. Why do the Dalits not getting justice in our institutions. India is already facing tribal revolt at the moment, a Dalit revolt will only add to its woes and it would be difficult for it to recover. Let the democracy and its institutions prove that they honor equality and dignity of human being and are capable of providing justice to each and every citizen of the country without any racial discrimination.

Khairlanji’s incident has proved that our courts have not yet sensitized to the Dalit cause. The incidents of children not eating food cooked by the Dalit cooks also reflect that Indian constitution has not yet been able to prove its supremacy over the rigid and outdated laws of Manu. The various forms caste violence, honored killings and inability of children to mixed up only reflect that Indian state has failed in secularizing the people and most importantly the political class itself has no faith in secular values except using it to satisfy the whims and fancies of caste and religious thugs. Nothing could be more shameful for a nation claiming to be a superpower in the 21st century. It’s a wake up call for all.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Rise of Dalit Literature

The rise of 'Dalit lit' marks a new chapter for India's untouchables
As caste divides fade, a fresh crop of writers is emerging

By Andrew Buncombe in Delhi
Wednesday, 30 June 2010

The market in India for Dalit literature is huge: Dalits make up a fifth of the country's population

Ajay Navaria, a writer of novels and short stories, cannot help but laugh as he reflects on the nature of his "other" job teaching Hindu ethics and scripture at a leading university in Delhi. The 39-year-old is a Dalit, a so-called "untouchable", and little more than a generation ago, for him to have even been discussing Hindu texts would have been an offence that could have cost him his life. The fact that he now teaches them brings a smile to his face.

"Fifty years ago it would have been a crime. I think about this and think that if I had touched those scriptures I would have been killed," he says, perched in a booth in a decaying coffee house in Delhi's once grand Connaught Place. "But democracy has given me power. It has given power to the depressed classes and helped to make a more modern society."

In his own way, Navaria is at the spearhead of a quiet cultural revolution sweeping India's literary establishment. Having long been confined to writing only in their own, local languages and largely ignored by the literary mainstream, Dalit authors are now being swooped on by some of the country's biggest publishers, such as Radhakrishna Prakashan which is translating their work into Hindi, the lingua franca of northern India and beyond.

Novelists, poets and writers of short stories are receiving both exposure and opportunity in the market-place that they have never before received. There are Dalit magazines, Dalit literary forums (there are two competing groups in Delhi alone) and Dalit workshops. And as further proof of the rising importance and clout of "Dalit lit", Mr Navaria was this year a guest at the influential Jaipur literary festival, an annual gathering and networker's paradise of Indian and international air-kissing types.

Indian society can sometimes seem harsh or even brutal. Nowhere is this more evident than in its caste system, a centuries-old hierarchy of categorisation based on ancient Hindu teachings that groups people into one of four main castes (and thousands of sub-castes). Traditionally, the caste someone belonged to decided where they would live, what job they would do and even what they would eat. People outside of these groups were considered unclean and not true Hindus, fit only for tasks such as cleaning toilets, making leather and sweeping the roads.

Dalits have suffered centuries of abuse and even today, despite legislation to protect them and an increasingly urbanised society, they are still the victims of widespread prejudice, discrimination and violence. A recent report by the Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front, a coalition of human rights groups in southern India, revealed a bewildering degree of discrimination, both in scale and form.

Among the various abuses detailed by the authors of the report, Dalits were not allowed to use a mobile phone in the presence of upper-caste people. They were also prevented from having their clothes washed, permitted only to drink tea from coconut shells while squatting on the floor, barred from entering temples, forced to eat faeces, raped and burned alive.

Yet Dalits total more than 150 million people – around 20 per cent of India's population – and the realisation has slowly come that with such critical mass, this community could have considerable leverage. In India's largest state, Uttar Pradesh, low-caste voters have on three occasions elected a Dalit chief minister, Mayawati Kumari.

The size of the population has also been a factor in the emergence of Dalit literature as publishers have woken up to the potentially massive market. As Navaria says: "They are doing their business, they are not missionaries. If they get a profit, they will do it. If they do not, then they won't."

A key figure in the emergence of low-caste writing is Ramnika Gupta. She is not a Dalit but she produces a quarterly magazine, Yuddhrat Aam Aadmi, devoted to previously marginalised writers. She estimates that she and her team of just three full-time assistants have published around 1,500 Dalit writers from across India over the last two decades. Large publishers regularly go to her for information about new talent. She helps on the condition that the publishers agree to produce a paperback edition that is affordable for ordinary people, in addition to the standard hardback run.

In the first-floor drawing room of her home, which also serves as her office, she noted that Dalit writers never lacked subject material. The highly influential writer and Dalit leader, B R Ambedkar, she explained, had said it was essential that low-caste people had their own literature and that they wrote about their own lives.

Mrs Gupta, who has herself written dozens of books on Dalit and tribal people's issues, said of the caste system: "India's culture discriminates. It's a state of exploitation. Everyone thinks 'He is lower than me' or 'I'm superior'. What we are trying to say is that we are all equal and if anyone is weak, we can help them to rise."

Dalit writers say the emergence of low-caste literature has taken place alongside a broader growth of consciousness and activism, particularly in urban India. While in rural India, caste remains all-pervading, in cities many of the signs and signals that identify a person's caste have vanished. In cities, too, Dalits are better organised to stand up for their rights.

"There is a growing consciousness that is emerging. People are now better educated and they all get to know about their rights," said Anita Bharti, a long-time writer and activist who heads a Dalit literary forum that meets every month in Delhi.

Literature, said Ms Bharti, has an important role to play in the ongoing struggle by Dalits to end discrimination. While abuse of low-caste people still happens, "they can now write about it. Also, people realise that Dalits have been mistreated in the past and that there is a need to bring Dalit literature to other people."

Navaria, who is now working on his second novel, agrees. When he wrote his first novel, Udhar Ke Log (People From That Side), he had no doubt that the main antagonist would be a middle-class, urban Dalit. The story tells of the various ways in which his low caste affects his life, including being rejected by his lover – herself a sex-worker – when she discovers he is a Dalit. "I chose to write about Dalit consciousness. I have felt myself treated like this many times," he says.

One of his most painful, burning experiences was as a schoolboy of 12 or 13 when scholarships were being offered to Dalit pupils. His teacher walked into the classroom and asked any low-caste pupils to stand up so that their names could be taken down. "I never stood up. I went to the head teacher later [to apply for the scholarship]," he recalls. "You feel so ashamed. One friend said to me 'You don't look like a Dalit'. I asked him, 'What do you think a Dalit looks like?'"

Navaria rejects the suggestion that by writing about purely Dalit issues and by knowingly organising themselves as Dalits, this new generation of writers is actually reinforcing caste divisions, rather than breaking them down. "If there are divisions in society, how can there not be divisions in literature? Publishers are not promoting these divisions but are reflecting them," he says. "Caste is very important. You cannot imagine India without caste. If a person says they are a Hindu, then they will have a caste."

One breakthrough these writers have yet to make is getting published in English. Partly that is because the writers prefer to work in a medium that their main audience can understand. But Ms Bharti and others say that getting the attention of the "elite" English-language media is still a challenge.

Navaria says he sees many obstacles ahead, but that he has the energy to overcome them. "Writing is not my profession, it's my passion," he says, as he finishes his coffee, Delhi's warm yellow sun slipping from the sky. "I cannot even sleep if an idea is in my head. For two or three nights, I cannot sleep until it's completed. It's a duty to the society."


Friday, July 09, 2010

Dalit woman wait for justice in Uttar-Pradesh

Dalit Woman Humiliated and victimized in Allahabad

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

Her one eye is completely turned red at the moment as the upper caste goons threw slippers at her. The entire body bears the brunt of the brahmanical violence on July 3rd, 2010 at the Sheetalpur Tikari village under Tharwai police station in Allahabad. Her cloths were torn and the goons tried to pee on her mouth but the police kept her in the police station for 24 hours and try to deny anything like that happened. This is the story of Lalli Devi, 45, who was constructing a house allotted to her under the Indira Awas Yojna when Devi Sharan Mishra, a local money lender and well connected person came along with some other members and demolished the house. As Lalti tried to reason with the man, she, her husband Gulab and her son aged 12 years were beaten mercilessly by these goons. Her huts where she used to sleep and cook were completely razed to the ground. ‘It was the incident at around 8 am on Saturday when I was cleaning my chulha’, said Lalli. ‘Eight members lead by Devi Mishra just entered in with lathis and thrashed me after beating my husband and son. Sir, they put me on ground, put their feet on my chest and tried to pee on my mouth. I resisted but they torn my cloths, hit at me and threw slippers at me which hurt my eyes. It is aching now and has turned red. I am still not able to breathe properly’, said Lalti when I visited her. There is no place for them to sleep. Its rainy season and given the nature of our villages, Lalli and her family has no way to save them from the fury of nature.

According to police officials, there was a land feud between the two which was in the court and there was a stay on it. When Lalli Devi was constructing her house given to her under Indira Awas Yojna, Devi Mishra and his gangsters demolished it and also razed her other huts to ground, beat up her husband and thrashed her when she reacted. She was humiliated and her body bears the mark of the thrashing.

This incident happened about 30 kilometers from Allahabad town on July 3rd, 2010 in the morning hour around 8 am. This nondescript village resembles the old structural villages of India which Baba Saheb Ambedkar described as ‘den of feudalism, nepotism and corruption’. The village in darkness. The village has 5 families of Yadavs, 10 families of Patels (OBCs), 25-30 families Passies (Dalits) and nearly 20 families of Brahmins. Nearly 10 families belong to Telis i.e. Guptas and one family belong to Dhaikar, a Dalit community which is engaged in bamboo weaving work. They make bamboo baskets and other related things. And see the tyranny of the caste system in the village, none of the communities coming to her rescue. The Brahmins, as master manipulators are using all techniques to disturb her. They are in power structure every where. She is alone. The Kurmis near her do not feel for her, the Pasis are known to resist yet not a single person is ready to speak. The terror of these Brahmin is so high that a Dalit woman says, ‘why do you speak to us. Are you not able to see our faces and judge as what is the situation here’? Lalli Devi know this situation as she says, ‘ Most of the people saw me being dragged on the ground and my cloths torn but no body want to speak as they fear the powerful’.

A police Jeep is picketing in front of her house. She went to police station to lodge her complaint but she was not only hounded but kept at the police station for 24 hours. Daily Amar Ujala and Hindustan reported it on July 6th and later the local news channels started running the story on their prime time which suggested that Lalli Devi was attacked and her cloths were torn but police deny she was paraded in the village. However, the question is whether hiding things make the grave incident less grave? For the police officials, it is like any other land dispute. They term it as a fight between two leaders for lording over the Dalits and other communities in the region. The Brahmin politics of Allahabad is well known to be explained here. But for the information of the readers, the Member of Parliament is a former pracharak of BJP but now his ‘heart’ is changed and hence is a man of ‘social justice’ in the BSP, though his brother’s heart still beat for BJP and hence he is MLA from that party. The other brother has just achieved victory for MLC on BSP ticket. None of them had visited so far. But the leaders from other political parties are also visiting her. I do not know but Lalli Devi tells that she was given support of Rs 3000/- by one politician and Rs 1000/- by the other. That is the cost of the dignity and respect of a Dalit woman in India.

The police officers on duty are mostly agreeing that she was beaten up and ‘sab kuchch galat hua’ but they are not ready to accept that ‘her dignity’ was attacked. When I ask them whether any case has been filed under Prevention of SC-ST Atrocities Act, they answer in affirmative but that has to be verified at later stage and action need to be seen. The culprit Devi Mishra’s supporter charge that the Lalli Devi is working on behalf of village Sarpanch Yogesh Tiwari who function as a Sarpanch pati, defecto Sarpanch of the village.

Antecedents of the culprits

Most of the villagers say that the Brahmins play power politics in the village and that Devi Mishra is a moneylender. As we know well that in Uttar-Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, the moneylenders suck your blood more than even the corporate. Here the interest rates are exorbitantly very high. According to the villagers, it very according to the ‘favor’ done by the moneylenders but nonetheless it starts from a minimum interest of 5% per month but normally is 10% month. Most of the villagers actually mortgage their papers and the problem is that at the time of receiving the money, they do not really bother to check the contents of the agreement and later are trapped in the game and therefore lost their land or other immoveable assets.

Devi Mishra’s supporter say that Lalli Devi does not own that land in which she was constructing her Indira Awas as the land was legally belong to him as he bought it from him, while Lalti Devi says that her father in law was a habitual drunk and nobody ever took him seriously. She also says that her husband also is not keeping well and has hearing problem. The fact is that she lives in the Abadi i.e. human settlement side which is never recorded and on the ground the grave reality is that Mishra and his goons assaulted her. Even if everything that Lalli Devi was saying wrong, that does never justify the grave violence inflicted on her by the arrogant brahmanical forces of the region and the dubious role played by the local police which was unable to arrest the culprits.

Though nobody is verifying things yet some of the dalits on the condition of anonymity informed that Devi Mishra is a Junior Engineer with some government department. According to them, he does not go to his office. Probably, it is a common decease in UP and elsewhere that the upper caste benami officers. It is up to the government to think over it and take action against him if it is proved that he is a government servant. Not only should his job records be produced to the court but also all those who connived with him in this misdeed should be arrested.

The village and the lonely woman

As Baba Saheb Ambedkar said that the caste system has never provided any unity of the oppressed and hence annihilation of caste is essential for social justice but how and who would be interested in it as annihilation of the caste itself mean elimination of the brahmanical social order? This hierarchical structure keeps people isolated and it is the biggest obstacle in the unity of the oppressed people ghettoized in their own shells. Here also if one see the isolation of Lalli Devi, one only realize how prophetic Ambedkar was in his analysis of our ‘great’ ‘villages’ which has ascending order of respect and descending order of contempt as the community that Lalli belong to does not serve any political purpose for those for who vote matters the most. Just adjacent to her huts are people, who are not ready to share her pain and agony. Women are inside their house. In the local PDS shop, I meet an old man who refuses to answer my question. I ask him Baba just tell me what happened to Lalli and this man says ‘ sab karmo ka phal hai’, everything is the result of her karma’. I ask Baba, what is your caste and this man inform me that he is a ‘Kurmi’ which is a powerful backward community. Yes, she does not belong to your caste and hence you are not bothered about her, I scold him. Near him, is a lonely woman who brick house is just adjacent to Lalli. Yes, Uma Devi is a Teli by caste. A single woman, she narrates her plight as how her land was snatched and converted by the powerful Brahmin in the village and she was thrown here. Uma is a lonely woman, left by her husband and rejected by her family, she live a life of pain and agony. She does not speak. The villagers speak for her as if she can not speak. The cruelty of village life is reflected in the eyes of Uma. Even a child can scold her in front of every one to the ‘delight’ of all the elders.

She shares the pain of Lalli but only say that she was not at home. Every one is speaking the same language of not being there. How is it possible in the village where you can see huge crowd on a small issue, that a woman is being robbed, molested and none of them has seen it. The police will work for a few days and after some time when ‘situation’ comes back to normalcy. Villagers know it well that they will have to respond again and as there is no ‘witness’ to the case, Lalli Devi may not get justice. The only possibility is that a few politicians and administration would try to ‘compensate’ her honor in a few thousands rupees. But Lalli Devi says,’ Sir, I was born here. My parents and grand parents lived her for so long. I can not leave this place. This is my home. I want to die here only’ But the pressure is on her to leave as none is ready to cooperate with her and we all know after several years the judiciary would not be able to give her justice. Lalli Devi knows that politicians are coming; media is highlighting the issue but just for a few days. After that she will remain alone along with her husband and a child. ‘Politicians promise a lot but I know they never come back’, says Lalli.

While Lalli says she did not face any caste based discrimination but the fact is isolation and ghettoisation is a way of life in the villages and accepted norms. As her opponents are charging her as a close associate with Pradhan she says categorically that she neither knows the Sarpanch nor wants to get involved in their activity. How will he be interested in us, she asks.

As I move around in the Pasi locality, lot of signs boards are there putting slogans of NREGS, promising bright future for the villagers. ‘Why should you leave village when the work is at home’, portray a slogan. The question one must ask these people as why migration is increasing. Is it just for work or it is for dignity also. What do we expect from people like Lalli Devi? Will she be allowed to live a life peacefully in the village by the feudal structure?

There is scarcity of water in the village. In the hamlet of Pasis, for over 25 families, they have just one water connection. So it is war among the poor. One family pay Rs 18/- a month apart from basic investment of Rs 3000/- yet no water on time. ‘Of course, water will be here for a few days as Netas come here and TV cameras roam around, but once things die down, nothing happen. It will again be the same politics of Mishras and Tiwaris, says a villager. None of them have land and yet less than 10% of them have the BPL card. It is shameful, say an old man that all the landless people have APL card. As far as the job card is concern, they do not get any work. Poor people do not even know that they have to apply for the job. They feel it is a favor by the village Pradhan or some political party.


Lalli Devi’s honor was violated at Sheetalpur Tikari. Her house has been demolished. Even the police admit that she was beaten mercilessly though they do not agree with everything that Lalti Devi speak. The issue is much bigger here. Is the crime against her less serious? What is the police doing. Has it really taken investigation to a conclusion? How will it destroy the nexus of the money lending upper castes who are illegally grabbing lands of the Dalits in these areas? Our experience shows that the police and authorities try to shut your mouth by compensating the person. They know well that after some days the issue would close down.

Human Rights are meant for each citizens of the country. A truly democratic governance structure should ensure that the most marginalized and tiniest minority must feel safe and secure. Our villages do not provide that confidence where the women like Lalli Devi feel secure and can live a life with freedom and dignity. The goons can come any time and assault her and our structure try to compensate it in a few thousand rupees while condoning the racist nature of our society. Though the police can not fight such violence, it can best do the work impartially and take the case to a logical conclusion. It will take long time. How can we ensure justice to Lalli Devi. Can our Human Rights bodies take any action against the authorities and follow it up? But if it takes years to get justice then how will Lalli and her family remain free and safe from the violence of the village and that of the goons? Will the police act against its own officers who denied that nothing happened and Lalli was lying?

Indian villages need radical changes. India administration needs bigger changes so that the democratic thought can flourish and women like Lalli Devi do not live in constant fear and humiliation. Can we grow and ensure that each one in the country live in dignity and self respect? Right now, we can only wait for justice to Lalli.