The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has learned that all the lowest caste (Dalit) families in a Bhavnagar District village are living under boycott conditions, which deny them employment, access to water, the use of village shops or public roads, and any contact with non-Dalits. The boycott was started by Brahmins after Dalits registered a complaint with the police against high caste persons for destroying and stealing from their burial grounds. Twelve out of thirty five families have already had to leave the village.
According to information received information from Navsarjan, a Gujarat-based NGO, a plot of land was given to the Dalits of Karmadiya village (Karmadiya Village, Mahuva, Bhavnagar) by the local government several years ago to be used as a burial ground. But on 19 April 2009 three Brahmin (highest caste) men were seen taking land from the plot to the agricultural fields; their tractor made approximately 50 trips.
At the Bagdana police station that day fifteen Dalits lodged a complaint against the three men: Bharatbhai Girdharbai Ladhva, Kanubhai Girdharbhai Ladhva and Vallbhbhai Jivabhai Ladhva, but though the police station took the application they refused to register a First Information Report (FIR). This is needed to start legal proceedings. On 23 April Dalit activists arrived in Karmadiya and after hours of petitions, police registered the FIR at 1am.
The next evening the Deputy Superintendent of Police (Dy.SP), Mr. B.D. Rabari arrived in the village to record statements and tried to broker an unofficial compromise. The Dalits refused, preferring to pursue their case in court where their rights are more likely to be vindicated. They also demanded police protection from the Dy SP. One police officer arrived later that night and stayed for two days.
After two meetings were seen taking place at the home of the Sarpanch (head of the village council), Balashankar Keshubhai Ladhva and another man Kanubhai Girdharbhai Ladhva the boycott was announced. Non-Dalits were told that they would be fined Rs5000 for making any kind of economic or social contact with the lowest caste members. The Dalits were allegedly told that those who used the public roads would have their legs broken.
Before the boycott, all earning Dalits worked on land owned by Brahmins or Patels and just twenty Dalit families own land (a total of 15 vigas), but these only yield crops for one season each year because of the lack of irrigation. Members of the community are depending on relatives for support and for loans, but children are finding it difficult to get school supplies and other students have started to call them dheda (a derogatory caste-based term). The women worry about the safety of themselves and their daughters, and report feeling vulnerable outside the Dalit area.
The stresses and physical difficulties of life in such a hostile environment has forced twelve families to leave the village, and the others fear that they may soon to follow.
Acts of retaliation, including boycotts and ostracism, often take place when a Dalit makes a legal complaint against a dominant-caste member. It is the responsibility of police to take preventative measures for these, as stated in Section 3 of the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) (SC/ST) Rules, 1989. These include the immediate arrest of possible perpetrators to prevent reprisals, the immediate provision of police protection (Rules 3(1)(x), 6(2)(iii), 6(2)(iv), and 12(2)(3)), the imposition of a collective fine (16), the removal of anyone likely to commit an offense (SC/ST Act 10), and the denial of bail (SC/ST Act §18). More on this act and the procedures and protections laid out by it can be found in our previous appeals on social boycotts, such as: UAC-095-2009.
Since ancient times Indian society has categorised its members into castes. At birth Indians are thrust into a hierarchical world of haves and have-nots, their destiny and human worth determined by family lineage and social custom. Those born into the upper castes, such as the Brahmins or the Darbars, are automatically given the privilege of ‘purity’. On the bottom rung, Dalits are considered akin to the dregs of civilization; others avoid physical and social contact with them, rendering them ‘untouchable’.
For thousands of years ‘untouchables’ have conducted the duties of a polluted class, from the delivery of bad news to the handling of excrement and of the dead. Society ensures that there is no dignity in being a Dalit. Seen as second-class human beings in the natural order, opportunities for self-improvement and advancement for the lowest caste are very few.
They are subjected to constant discrimination. Violence committed against them draws less interest or commitment from the authorities, leaving them vulnerable and cut off from the usual mechanisms of justice. The constraints they live with lead to extreme levels of poverty, hunger, squalor and ignorance. The right to grow emotionally, intellectually and even physically is denied them; they essentially live stunted lives. Women face the worst in this patriarchal society, and more often than not the duties that are relegated to the Dalits are given to them.
Legislation has been created to ban Untouchability and protect Dalits, but in practice it is often ignored by the authorities and hampered by the fixed perceptions of social identity, especially in rural areas. Discrimination against Dalits is severely undermining the advancement of a just, modern Indian society
Please take a look at our previous appeal, UAC-095-2009, for more information on the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, plus a detailed look at the state of current laws.
Please send letters to the authorities listed below expressing your concern in this case. The AHRC will also contact the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance calling for an intervention in this case.
To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER
INDIA: 35 Dalit families face a social boycott while the destruction of their burial ground goes unpunished
Names of victims:
1. The Dalit community residing in Karmadiya Village (35 families)
Names of alleged perpetrators:
1. Bharatbhai Girdharbai Ladhva (Brahmin)
2. Kanubhai Girdharbhai Ladhva (Brahmin)
3. Vallbhbhai Jivabhai Ladhva (Brahmin)
4. Balashankar Keshubhai Ladhva, Sarpanch (village council head) of Karmadiya village
5. Kanubhai Girdharbhai Ladhva, (Brahmin)
6. Police officers of Bagdana station
All residing at Karmadiya village
As well as the other involved members of the non-Dalit community at Karmadiya Village
Date of incident: 19 to 24 April 2009
Place of incident: Karmadiya Village, Mahuva, Bhavnagar District
I am writing to express my concern about a case of caste-based discrimination against and social boycotting of a Dalit community, as reported from Karmadiya Village, Mahuva, Bhavnagar District. I am informed by Navsarjan, a human rights NGO based in Gujarat, that the entire non-Dalit community in the village is behind the incident.
A social boycott was allegedly put into place after Dalits tried to file charges against three non-Dalits for trespassing onto their burial grounds and stealing soil, causing approximately Rs 50,000 worth of damage. The Dalits were banned from economic or social interaction with non-Dalits and any non-Dalit that breaks the boycott will allegedly be fined 5000 rupees by the wider community. Dalits were told that their legs would be broken if they used public roads.
I am also concerned about the way in which the police handled the case. Officers at Bagdana station initially refused to register a First Information Report (FIR). They finally registered the FIR at 1am on April 24 police after hours of pressure from Dalit activists. The FIR was not written as dictated by the complainants and relevant information was omitted. But most importantly, the social boycott has not been officially recognised by the Social Welfare Department, and so no attempts towards relief, compensation and rehabilitation have been made by the government.
These incidents are clearly in violation of not only the Dalit peoples fundamental human rights, but also of the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act (1989), the Protection of Civil Rights Act (1955) and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1966), ratified by India in 1968. As was highlighted by the United Nations Committee on Elimination of Racial Discriminations report on India in 2007, the practice of Untouchability continues largely unfettered.
I therefore request that:
1. An investigation be ordered into the social boycott practiced against the victims in Karmadiya village by the Social Welfare Office, and the findings made public;
2. If the allegations are true, that the victims be paid appropriate compensation for property damage as well as economic and social rehabilitation, as entitled under the SC/ST Act;
3. A First Information Report (FIR) be immediately registered by a police officer of a rank not below that of the Deputy Superintendent of Police, that includes all relevant and proper sections of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act
4. A proper case be registered under the provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, against the social boycott in particular, against all the accused.
5. The boycott and migration be officially recognized and declared by the Social Welfare Department for as long as necessary;
6. Police protection be provided for as long as necessary;
7. The village Sarpanch (council leader) be suspended immediately.
PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:
1. Secretary of Department of Social Justice and Empowerment
Government of Gujarat
Block No.5, 8th Floor
2. Directorate of Scheduled Caste Welfare
Secretary of Department of Social Justice and Empowerment
Government of Gujarat
Block No.5, 8th Floor
3. Director General of Police
Police Bhawan Sector 18
Gujarat 382 009
Fax: + 91 177 23253918
4. Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment
Government of India
Dr Rajendra Prasad Road
New Delhi – 110 001
Fax + 91 11 23384918
National Human Rights Commission
Faridkot House, Copernicus Marg
New Delhi 110001
Fax + 91 11 2338 6521
National Commission for Scheduled Castes
Lok Nayak Bhawan
New Delhi 110 003
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (firstname.lastname@example.org)