An expanded translation of a Janashakti report on the Dalit agitations lead by CPI(M) in Karnataka.
Anguished and devastated, a huge number of the exploited people from the Dalit Community from different parts of Karnataka gathered in Bengaluru. They raised their voice against the malpractices in the name of casteism. They also voiced their opinions asking for their right for adequate food. Last June, Thousands of people from dalit community led by CPI(M) conducted a dharna infront of Chief Minister’s house demanding the government to fulfill their basic demands.
It is a matter of great concern that no perceptible change in the living conditions of the people belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, who constitute a considerably big section of our society, could be achieved, even after six decades of Independence. Several studies have shown that the Constitutional provisions of reservations in employment and education have not properly reached them yet. Even the figures given by the Karnataka Human Development Report, 2005 corroborate this. The atrocities and social boycotts inflicted on Dalits by caste-Hindus in the State, almost on daily basis, highlight their weaker status, helplessness and Govt.’s apathy. The increasing number incidents of dishonouring statues of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar occurring in various parts of the State, only further prove this fact.
The downtrodden in Karnataka form about 26.5 % of the population, and without improving their conditions, there can be no meaningful development of Karnataka. From centuries, this community has been exploited incessantly, and without empowering them economically, socially and educationally, it makes little or no sense when we boast about the development India is undergoing.
Since the BJP governance has begun in Karnataka, there has been increasing oppression of the Dalits by the upper castes of the society. BJP government has acquired an image of being pro-upper castes, and this has turned to be the magic wand for the Upper castes to continue with their oppression against the Dalits.
The property-less people
These people, who were denied of properties under the Varnashrama system, are still dependent on upper caste landlords. Economically, these communities are worse-off. On several occasions, the forces of lanlordism extract unpaid labour from them. The lands got by Dalit beneficiaries under Land Reforms are still in the possession of the landlords. Lakhs of Dalit families have been pushed out of their lands due to loopholes in the Land Reforms Act, and reduced to the status of agricultural labourers. Bulk of this section has to depend on the low-income agricultural sector. To this day, the Upper caste land owners get these people to do menial jobs, without paying them any wages. About 75 % of the scheduled caste and scheduled tribe from the rural population are still surviving on daily wage labour. Their average income per day has not increased beyond Rs.25. Daily wage labour opportunities have reduced to only 70 days per year.
The annual income of a typical Dalit family has not increased beyond Rs.4000. As a consequence, child labour, and the unfortunate Devadaasi system have perpetuated.
Literacy rate has not been able to reach 50%. The proportion of children remaining out of primary schools is 5%, while that of high schools is 18%. They are unable to purchase healthcare. Undernourishment is so grim that 70% of infants die at that stage itself, and of the remaining. 38% die before reaching the age of 5 years. About 30 % of the pregnant Dalit women do not get adequate care during pregnancy. About 80% of the Dalits do not own a house to live in. Even now, 30% have to live under kerosene light. There are no cemeteries with adequate space for burial of the dead.
Devadasi : Remnants of feudal system
The Devadasi Abolition Act of Bombay State and a similar Act of Madras Government are in force in the Bombay Karnataka Area and in Bellary District respectively. But the Devadasi System is still in force in some parts of Karnataka and the women who are inducted to this system are in a pitiable condition and end up in prostitution for a living. The women are all devadasis, literally slaves of the goddess. As children their parents gave them to serve Yellama - the goddess of fertility. Her cult is thousands of years old, her followers spread across southern India. At the temple to Yellama in Saundatti women dance and praise the goddess. The practice of dedicating young girls as devadasis has been outlawed for over 50 years, but still it happens. Being devadasis means they are slaves of the goddess. When girls dedicated to Yellama reach puberty they are forced to sacrifice their virginity to an older man. What follows is a life of sexual slavery, they become sanctified prostitutes.
With such a reality infront of us, the liberalization policies being followed by the Government and the recurring droughts have further worsened the situation. The portion of funds allocated for the Dalits from the state budget is not in proportion with their population, it is minuscule. But, the funds allocated to other departments of the Government are either never used or misused, the latter being the case, most of the times. Under circumstances such as these, CPI(M) had organized protests in front of the Chief Minister's residence in Bengaluru, pressurizing the fulfillment of these demands.
Sugar that can't be savored
CPI(M) Polit Bureau member K.Varadarajan, who participated in the protest, during his speech said that even after more than 60 years of Independence the existence of practices like untouchability, emanating from casteism is a matter of shame and disgrace. Instances of social segregation and abolishment occur even today as we speak. He expressed his discontent by saying that the existence of laws against untouchability is just like sugar on paper, which cannot be savored. The social,economic and political conditions of the Dalits are worrisome, he said. Land is being snatched away from them as a common occurrence. He also added that daily wage workers are migrating into cities aspiring for better wages.
Types of Untouchability
He said that Untouchability had become a common occurrence, observable ubiquitously. According to a survey conducted, in Andhra Pradesh there are 148 different practices pertaining to Untouchability, likewise 92 in Tamil Nadu. In this regard, CPI(M) has been consolidating numerous protests. He said that apart from pursuing struggles on the economic front, CPI(M) was also active in the social front, trying to tackle issues of prime concern. Casteism was being maneuvered by religion and an urgent need had arisen to fight against blind religious beliefs. He reached out to everyone saying that, each had a role to play in annihilating this inhumane peril called casteism. In this regard, he said, CPI(M) had taken up numerous struggles all across India.
The campaign leader for the day, Maruti Manpade, CPI(M) State Leader directly blamed BJP for all the increasing atrocities against the Dalits. Caste instigated crime, social segregation, have been increasing profusely all across the state and the Government was giving no heed to address this issue, he said. In the Siddhaganga and the Pejawar Mutts in Karnataka, the devotees are discriminated into two different streams for the food served, and none of the Mutt Leaders have taken a stand against this double standard. He also said that the government was being negligent with respect to the Devdaasi women. These women are in a pitiful state, surviving by begging. In Bagalkote district alone there about 50,000 orphans, born to the Devadaasis. But the Government was being inhumane and ignoring them, was his accusation. There is a State committee for Dalit rights headed by the Chief Minister, but has failed to meet even once. Not even 30% of the allocated special funds has been spent on them. He accused Yediyurappa to have nullified all the constitutional provisions for the Dalits.
CPI(M) leader, P.Neela, said that, Dalits instead of asking for their rights need to snatch it back. Being comical she said that, Karnataka was built by Dalits, and not by the ones who drink milk, eat curds and ring bells. She complained about the lack of facilities to mill workers and farming wage labourers by the state Government. And by this she concluded that BJP has proven it's anti-Dalit nature.
Former parliamentarian and CPI(M) State Secretary, G.V.Sriraamareddy said that, the Communists in India have been fighting for the cause of Dalits even before Independence, and History is the witness for it. The campaign for Dalits, land for sowers, were started by the CPI(M). The Communist Governments in West Bengal, Kerala, and Tripura have successfully implemented stringent laws against casteism and have been able to provide land to the people from backward classes. He also added that, just by making a Dalit minister, the Dalits cannot be redeemed. Be it Mr. Kharge who has been a minister for three decades, or the Chief Minister Mayawati cannot solve the problems Dalits are facing. The session was presided over by State Secretary, Com.V.J.K.Nair. Social Welfare Minister D.Sudhakar, accepted the pleas and committed to discuss with the Chief Minister. The session was also presided over by State committee members, Com. Nityanandhaswami and G.C.Bayya Reddy.
DEMANDS OF THE RALLY
Following demands were submitted to Minister of Social Welfare, D. Sudhakar and the government was demanded to initiate a discussion on these demands, take suitable action for arranging a joint meeting of representatives of our Party and concerned Ministers/ senior officials:
1. The State Budget should provide for 23.65% of its outlay for the SC/ST population, in proportion to their population in the State. And STs should be provided reservation of 7% as provided by the Central Govt., instead of the current provision of 3%.
2. The un-utilisation of outlays during the prescribed period provided for various Departments under the Govt. should be considered as ‘dereliction of duty’. Those misusing funds provided for Dalits should be proceeded against under Atrocities Act.
3. All the laws against atrocities on Dalits, untouchability and caste discrimination should be strictly implemented. The complaints should be addressed to speedily and the culprits punished. Witnesses should be provided with protection and financial assistance. The crimes like boycott and blackmail should be added to the purview of Prevention of Atrocities on SCs and STs Act, 1989.
4. Complete economic rehabilitation should be immediately provided to the Dalit victims of atrocities. To prevent delays in provision of justice, Special Courts should be provided with Judges and Public Prosecutors. SC/ST Commission should be strengthened with appointments of Judges and Social Scientists.
5. Re-investigation of the burning alive of Dalits of Kambalapally in Chinthamani district should be ordered. Rigorous punishment should be handed out to the culprits and maximum relief should be provided to the victims. Lands should be allotted to the Dalit villagers of Chitta, Kadakola, and Marakambi. Similarly, the victimised Dalit families in Danapur, Gabbur, Hunasawadi, Halakere, Lakkasandra and Lakshmisagar should be provided with relief.
6. Refusal of temple entry, two tumblers system in the hotels, refusal of entry into public lakes, wells and taps and also hair-cutting saloons, forced unpaid labour and such other practices of untouchability should be strictly halted. And continuous campaigns of enlightening people on these practices should be carried out. The system of separate provision for meals based on castes in vogue in Udupi Sri Krishna Mutt and in other Mutts should be banned.
7. Reservation facility in Private Sector should be immediately implemented. All backlog posts should be filled up. Discrimination in promotion to Dalit employees, delaying or avoiding promotions and such other misdeeds should be stopped. Sewerage workers and sweepers should be released from contract labour and regularized as permanent employees. The systems of child-labour and bonded labour should be eliminated and rehabilitation should be provided to them.
8. Hostels for Dalit students at hobli, taluk and district levels should be opened in adequate numbers. All Dalit students applying for hostels should get admission. Buildings and other infrastructural facilities should be provided for all Dalit Hostels. The monthly food stipend for students in Dalit Hostels should be increased from Rs.1000 to Rs.2000. Scholarships for Dalit students should be increased to the maximum extent. Priority should be given for education of children of Devadasi women.
9. The opportunities for self-employment of Dalit youth should be increased. The Loan facilities with lower interest and 50% subsidy should be increased. One-time writing-off of loans obtained from SC/ST Corporation. Minimum individual loan of Rs. 4 lakhs for SHGs of Dalit women. Restraints on political influences and corruption in the selection of Dalit beneficieries.
10.Universalisation of Public Distribution System and all Dalit households should be enabled to get the benefit without any condition. The minimum daily wage of agricultural labour should be increased to Rs,200.
11.Housing facility for Dalit families should be provided. Comprehensive Land Reforms should be carried out and minimum 2 acres should be distributed to landless Dalit households.
12.Steps to be taken for implementation of Tribal & Other Traditional Forest Dwellers( Forest Rights) Act, 2006 in the State. One more opportunity for applying for regularization should be given to those cultivating Govt. lands. The applications submitted earlier and not settled yet, should be speedily settled and rejected applications should be reconsidered.
13.The fresh enumeration list of Devadasi women should be accepted and all Devadasi women should be provided with pension and rehabilitation. The Govt. should provide incentive of Rs. 1 lakh for inter-caste and Devadasi remarriage programmes.
14.Dalit households should be enabled to get continuous work by be proper implementation of the NREGA. The Scheme should be extended to urban areas. Daily wage should be enhanced to Rs. 200.
15.Allottment of preparation of the mid-day meal to private agencies should be withdrawn and rural dalit, backward women should be enabled to get employment. They should be given decent wages.
16. The legislation banning beef should be withdrawn and the food right of the Dalits should be restored.