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Person fined for touching goddess

CALCUTTA: A lower-caste person in West Bengal is to appeal to the human rights commission after being fined for touching a statue of the goddess Kali.

According to villagers, one family member, Malati Sith entered a Kali temple and touched the forehead of the statue, angering the upper caste Brahmin community in Pursurah village, near Calcutta.

The Brahmins called a special meeting and imposed a fine of 8,000 rupees (173 dollars) on the family to meet the cost of "purifying" the idol.

"We would have to sell off all our valuables to pay the fine," said Sith's husband Madan Mohon.

But the temple priests insisted they acted correctly.

"We are abiding by the rules of the temple," said head priest Sufal Chakaborty.

Although discrimination on the grounds of caste is illegal in India, it continues in many forms.

A local village committee member Asit Patra said they were "investigating the matter".

DAWN, Nov 22, 2000
Dalit cause be put on UN agenda, says Indian

By Masood Haider

NEW YORK, Nov 21: Martin Macwan, a leader of India's 160 million Dalits (untouchables), has called upon the international community to put the cause of Dalits on the agenda of the United Nations' first international conference on racism and discrimination next summer.

The Dalits in India, Macwan says, are suffering under Indian rule due to the caste system and none of the laws against discrimination are ever enforced.

Macwan was honoured last Tuesday by the Human Rights Watch, in New York. He will also receive the Robert F. Kennedy award for human rights in Washington next week.

Last year the Human Rights Watch in a report said: "The Indian government has long failed to prevent widespread violence and discrimination against some 160 million people at the bottom of caste system. Dalits - or untouchables - continue to live in segregated colonies and perform demeaning caste-based occupations. They cannot enter the higher-caste sections of villages, may not use the same wells, wear shoes in the presence of upper castes, drink from the same cups in tea stalls, or lay claim to land that is legally theirs."

The report further said: "Dalit children are frequently made to sit in the back of classrooms and make up the majority of those sold into bondage. Attempts by Dalits to claim their legal rights or disturb the status quo are met with large-scale violence, destruction of property, and sexual violence against Dalit women. Dalit villagers have been the victims of many brutal massacres in recent years, often with the complicity of the police. Mr Macwan's work has been wake-up call to the international community about the suffering of the Dalits."

"The fact that we're honouring a Martin from India reminds us of yet another Martin from the US who fought racial discrimination in this country," Stephen Rickard, director of the R.F.K. Center for Human Rights, said in an interview.

In an interview with the New York Times, Mr Macwan, 41, described the lives of people who are deprived of land ownership, required to drink and eat from separate utensils, barred from wells and temples, forced into bonded labour and made to clean latrines with their bare hands and carry human waste away from the homes of caste Hindus.

THE TELEGRAPH, March 18, 2000
Dalit Woman Stripped, Killed

Lucknow, March 17

Days ahead of Bill Clinton's visit to Agra, a Dalit woman was stripped and beaten to death by two men in broad daylight even as villagers stood by helplessly and watched the gory spectacle to its tragic end.

Twenty-three-year-old Sukhviri Devi of Nagla village in Agra district made the mistake of crossing the path of Virendra Pal and Vijay Pal, carrying an empty matka. The price she paid for it was death.

The Pal brothers, who were going to their fields in a tractor, were enraged to see that Sukhviri did not have the "decency" to stop and allow them passage when she knew that it was inauspicious to cross someone's path with an empty matka.

Getting down from their vehicle, they first tried to throttle the woman and when she tried to scream for help, smashed her head on the ground.

Not content with that, they stripped her and beat her mercilessly even as a crowd that gathered, stood by mutely with none daring to risk the ire of the Pals.

Virendra and Vijay then left an unconscious Sukhviri on the road and drove away. When neighbours rushed her to a nearby hospital she was pronounced dead.

Confirming the murder, O.P. Sharma, head constable attached to the SSP, Agra, S.K. Singh, said he "had heard about the death", but had to find out why the Kagaraul police station had not taken any action yet.

Though the young Dalit girl was thrashed to death in broad daylight and in the midst of about a dozen villagers, there were no witnesses available and the police have made no arrests.

After his visit to the Taj Mahal at Agra, Clinton, ironically, will be addressing a select gathering on human rights and our environment.

Asian Age, Mon. 13 March 2000,
Dalit houses set ablaze in Karnataka, 7 killed

By Our Correspondent, Bangalore, March 12:

Seven members of a dalit family were burnt alive on Saturday night in their house in Kambala Halli, near Chintamani in Kolar, by a group from the upper caste Reddy community half-an-hour after a plumber from their community was stabbed to death by local Dalit Sangharsha Samithi activists over an old dispute.

Witnesses said a big group from the Reddy community converged on the village late on Saturday night and set three houses of the dalit families on fire. They targeted the family of Sreeramappa, one of the DSS activists involved in the stabbing of the plumber, Krishna Reddy. Karnataka chief minister S.M. Krishna and home minister Mallikarjun Kharge visited the village on Sunday morning and said a judicial inquiry, either by a sitting high court judge or a retired judge, would be ordered into the incident. A compensation of Rs 1 lakh each for the family members of the deceased has also been announced. Mr Kharge said the dalit families would be shifted from the village as they were feeling unsafe.

Witnesses said men from the Reddy community, carrying petrol and kerosene cans and armed with sickles, began to stone the dalit houses while they locked themselves inside one of the houses. The rioting crowd then doused the house with petrol and set it on fire, trapping seven persons inside. Those burnt alive were Sreeramappa, his mother Ramakka, sister Papamma, brother Anjanappa, cousins Narasimhulu and Papanna and aunt Subamma.

Another woman who had locked herself in a neighbouring house has survived with severe burns. Her condition is critical.

Villagers told The Asian Age that the attack lasted an hour, with the armed men surrounding Sreeramappa?s house to ensure nobody escaped. They covered the house with dry grass to help the fire spread quickly, they said.

The police arrived at 11 pm on Saturday night, four hours after the violence. The nearest police station is 40 km from the village and no one ventured in the dark to inform the police, the villagers said.

Amnesty International Press Release ASA 20/48/97, Dec. 03, 1997
Upper Caste Hindus Stage Massacre

"At least 250 men of the Ranbeer Sena, a private army set up by predominately upper caste landlords, crossed from Bhojpur into neighbouring Jehanabad district across the River Sone and entered two hamlets of Bathe Lakshmanpur village on the night of 1 December. During the next two hours, they slit the throats of five fishermen and then shot dead at least 56 people, many of whom were in their beds. Most of the victims were the families of agricultural labourers from low caste and dalit communities, suspected to have links with left wing Maoist groups active in the state. Eight of the 33 women who were killed were pregnant. Sixteen children were killed."

Dalit Index