By Anshul Tewari:
My maternal hometown, Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh is another fine city, with not so fine roads and traffic condition, but with must see monuments and a shiny sparklingÂ bungalow, stays where the Chief Minister of the State, Behen Mayawati. In my earlier open letter to Mayawati I asked her about the reasons for her Government not having sufficient monetary aid for stampede victims but having more than required for building statues of herself. But sadly, no reply knocked my doors.
This time as a part of my coverage of news less-known-of in Uttar Pradesh I present an issue which many of us have heard of but less know about the real story. The state of U.P consists of about 72 districts, almost each having a district magistrate/collector (at least that is what the official documents state).
Out of these 72 districts, almost over 30 have Dalit population as the dominating demographic figure. And this is the target vote bank population of our beloved Chief Minister. But Miss Mayawati, with her tall claims of fighting for the “Dalit cause” seems to be allegedly neglecting this particular section the most, moreover, Dalit women.
According to a report inÂ TEHELKA “BADHANA VILLAGE in Sultanpur district is just 150 km from Lucknow. One muggy September afternoon in 2006, 17-year-old Sarita told her parents that an upper-caste boy had been teasing her. When the girl’s parents, Meera Devi and Sukhdev Harijan, approached the boy’s family, they rubbished the charge.
Sarita’s harassment only intensified. One morning, the teenager went missing. Her parents, Dalit landless labourers, filed a report with the police, but did not name anyone, though they suspected 23- year-old Dileep Singh, a Thakur. Days later, Sarita’s bloated body was recovered from an unused well. Sarita’s waist-long hair had been stuffed in her mouth and her tongue was jammed between her teeth. The police arrived the next morning, conducted the post-mortem and cremated the body while the family was still in shock.”
This is not an isolated case here in the Dalit Pradesh. A 2009 report by the National Crime Records Bureau shows that crime against dalit women in Uttar Pradesh are increasing despite the state having a dalit chief minister. The figures reveal that such crimes rose by 5% in 2008. A total of 6,942 cases of murder, rape and other crimes was reported in 2008, in Uttar Pradesh, as against 6,628 cases in 2007. Dalits comprise 21% of the state’s total population.
Investigations by the state human rights commission show that a large number of these crimes are triggered by land disputes.Â In 2007, the year Mayawati took charge as CM, 318 rapes were reported; the year before, the rape tally was 240.
We tried talking to a number of people from various villages in Uttar Pradesh, but sadly, it seems it will take time for new media to gain more credibility over traditional media, in the eyes of the common man, but we did grab a view or two. On talking to Sukhman Ram (name changed), a Dalit from the Manjholi village whose daughter was kidnapped, raped and murdered by a few upper caste boys, we were exposed to a glaring picture. According to Sukhman, “my daughter is not an isolate case here, we hear of a new case every few weeks, sometimes more often. We voted for them so that they could fight for our rights, but the local BSP MLA is of no help.”
There are many like Sukhman who have suffered a lot, and still do. Knocking doors of the police is not what helps. “we get turned down by the police, they threaten to put us behind bars, or even shut down our work.”
Earlier in 2009, a Dalit woman was raped by a Doctor in Lucknow; around the same time, a Dalit woman was abducted from her house and forced into prostitution; on 19th July ’10, a Dalit woman was gangraped and strangled to death in Greater Noida; the cases are numerous, but the action taken is negligible.
Problems can be many, from negligence of people, to improper governance to the not-so-responsive attitude of the police. [Rumours tell us that policemen in U.P earn the most in terms of black-money].
The real problem is the mentality of people, both Dalit and non-Dalit. A general perception by the upper castes in various districts of U.P is that they deserve more than the Dalits and can use them in any way they want. In a state dominated by rural and semi-rural areas this can very well be taken as a majority perception.
The problem does not end here. The thought prevailing in Dalit minds is no less. Dalits here are of the belief that they are downtrodden. As they say, you can never come out of the fringes until you consider yourself worthy enough.
So are Dalit women really suffering the most in Uttar Pradesh? Yes. So is Mayawati’s claim to fight for Dalits a political propaganda? Maybe, may be not. But from what we see, real time steps are not being taken to bring forth people from the backward villages in the fringes as numerous cases go unreported.
In Uttar Pradesh, people have been struggling hard to move the Government to act for the Dalits, but ironically, the Dalit Pradesh has not had much to offer. We would not recommend going outrightly and acting against the Government officials in your angst. But here are a few logical things you can do
Taking this up tactfully with a motive to see things moving, there are a few things that can be done.
Lack of political will is a major factor contributing to such problems. If people dedicate themselves towards public service then we are very sure that they will not have to build their own statues, instead, their fans and followers will do it for them.
State of the backward will change, only if we join hands and change it together. Do comment below or tweet us @YouthKiAwaaz. You can also email us at [email protected]
The writer is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Youth Ki Awaaz and holds special interests in grass root reporting of rural India.