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[Topics under debate]: GOOD GOVERNANCE
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The text of the press release accompanying the publication of
     the report: Broken People. This press release is available online
at:
     http://www.hrw.org/press/1999/apr/ind0413.htm

Violence Against "Untouchables" Growing, Says Report

Indian Government Fails to Prevent Massacres, Rapes, and Exploitation

(London, April 14, 1999) -- The Indian government has failed to prevent
widespread violence and discrimination against more than 160 million
people
at the bottom of the Hindu caste system, Human Rights Watch charged in a

report released today.  The report, Broken People: Caste Violence
Against
India's "Untouchables," calls on the Indian government to disband
private
militias and implement national legislation to prevent and prosecute
caste-based attacks.

"Untouchability" was abolished under India's constitution in 1950.  Yet
entire villages in many Indian states remain completely segregated by
caste, in what has been called "hidden apartheid." Untouchables, or
Dalits_the name literally means "broken" people_may not enter the
higher-caste sections of villages, may not use the same wells, wear
shoes
in the presence of upper castes, visit the same temples, drink from the
same cups in tea stalls, or lay claim to land that is legally theirs.
Dalit children are frequently made to sit in the back of classrooms.
Dalit
villagers have been the victims of many brutal massacres in recent
years.

"`Untouchability' is not an ancient cultural artifact, it is human
rights
abuse on a vast scale," said Smita Narula, researcher for the Asia
division
of Human Rights Watch and author of the report.  "The tools for change
are
in place_what is lacking is the political will for their
implementation."
Human Rights Watch is an international human rights monitoring
organization
based in New York.

Since the early 1990s, violence against Dalits has escalated
dramatically
in response to growing Dalit rights movements. The release of the
291-page
report today is timed to coincide with the birthday of Dr. B. R.
Ambedkar,
architect of the Indian constitution and revered Dalit leader who died
in
1956.  The National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights, the first of its
kind
in history, will be marking the occasion with rallies in ten states.

The report includes more than forty specific recommendations to the
Indian
government at the central and state level, many of them focused on
implementing a 1989 law banning atrocities against Dalits. According to
that law, it is illegal to force Dalits into bonded labor, deny them
access
to public places, foul their drinking water, force them to eat
"obnoxious
substances," or "parade them naked or with painted face or body." The
recommendations also call for the establishment of special courts and
atrocities units to prosecute crimes against Dalits, and more women
police
personnel to register complaints by Dalit women.

"The violence will only grow without these measures," said Narula. "It
is a
crisis that calls out for national and international attention."

At the international level, the report calls on India's donors and
trading
partners to build anti-discrimination measures into all aid projects
where
problems of caste violence are particularly severe.  All of the
recommendations were formulated in consultation with Indian activists
involved in the National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights, founded in
1998.

Upper-caste employers frequently use caste as a cover for exploitative
economic arrangements. With the exception of a minority who have
benefited
from India's policy of reservations (affirmative action), Dalits are
relegated to the most menial tasks.

An estimated forty million people in India, among them fifteen million
children, are bonded laborers, working in slave-like conditions in order
to
pay off debts. The majority of them are Dalits.  At least one million
Dalits work as manual scavengers, clearing feces from latrines and
disposing of dead animals with their bare hands.  Dalits also comprise
the
majority of agricultural laborers who work for a few kilograms of rice,
or
15-35 rupees (less than US$1) a day.

In India's southern states, thousands of Dalit girls are forced to
become
prostitutes for upper-caste patrons and village priests before reaching
the
age of puberty.  Landlords and the police use sexual abuse and other
forms
of violence against women to inflict political "lessons" and crush
dissent
within the community. Dalit women have been arrested and tortured in
custody to punish their male relatives who are hiding from the
authorities.

The report documents violence in the eastern state of Bihar and the
southern state of Tamil Nadu.  In Bihar, high-caste landlords have
organized private militias, or senas, which have killed Dalit villagers
with impunity.  Extremist guerrilla groups have retaliated by killing
high-caste villagers, leading to an escalating cycle of violence.  Such
attacks on civilians constitute violations of international humanitarian

law. Human Rights Watch has called for independent investigations into
the
killings and for the disarming of the militias.

One of the most prominent militias, the Ranvir Sena, has been
responsible
for the massacre of more than 400 Dalit villagers in Bihar between 1995
and
1999.  Within a span of three weeks in January and February 1999, sena
members killed 34 Dalit villagers in two separate attacks.  On March 19,

1999, members of the Maoist Communist Centre, a guerrilla organization
with
low-caste supporters, beheaded 33 upper-caste villagers in retaliation
for
the sena killings.  Both sides have threatened more "revenge killings"
in
the weeks to come.

The senas, which claim many politicians as members, operate with
impunity.
In some cases, police have accompanied them during their attacks and
have
stood by as they killed villagers in their homes.  In other cases,
police
raids have followed attacks by the senas.  The purpose of the raids is
often to terrorize Dalits as a group, whether or not they are members of

guerilla organizations.  During the raids, the police have routinely
beaten
villagers, sexually assaulted women, and destroyed property. Sena
leaders
and police officials have never been prosecuted for such killings and
abuses.

Dalits throughout the country also suffer from de facto
disenfranchisement.
 During elections, Dalits are routinely threatened and beaten by
political
party strongmen in order to compel them to vote for certain candidates.
Dalits who run for political office in village councils and
municipalities
(through seats that have been constitutionally "reserved" for them) have

been threatened with physical abuse and even death to get them to
withdraw
from the campaign.

In the village of Melavalavu, Tamil Nadu, following the election of a
Dalit
to the village council presidency, members of a higher-caste group
murdered
six Dalits in June 1997, including the elected council president, whom
they
beheaded.  As of February 1999, the accused murderers_who had been voted

out of their once-secure elected positions_had not been prosecuted.

In cases investigated for this report, with the exception of a few
transfers and suspensions, no action has been taken against police
officers
involved in violent raids or summary executions, or against those
accused
of colluding with private actors to carry out attacks on Dalits.  In
many
instances, Dalits have repeatedly called for police protection and been
ignored. Even national government agencies concur that impunity is
rampant.

"Talking about the problem is not enough," said Narula. "The Indian
government must act now to demonstrate its stated commitment to ensuring

equal rights for Dalits."

This report is also available online at:

http://www.hrw.org/reports/1999/india
 The second Dalit press release below. It is available online at:
     http://www.hrw.org/press/1999/apr/ind0423.htm
STATE, CENTRAL AUTHORITIES IN INDIA "CRIMINALLY NEGLIGENT"
(New York, April 23, 1999)_ Human Rights Watch today condemned the Bihar

state government for refusing to heed warnings that the Ranvir Sena, a
private militia of  upper caste landlords, was planning a revenge attack
on
lower caste villagers.  Yesterday, gunmen belonging  to the upper-caste
Hindu militia killed twelve people in an attack on two neighboring
villages
in the Gaya district, south of the state capital, Patna. According to
press
reports, the victims included four women and a baby. The hands of some
victims were reportedly bound together before they were shot. The
killings
were in apparent retaliation for the killing of thirty-five upper caste
villagers by Maoist guerrillas last month.

As rival political parties in New Delhi struggle to form a new
government,
violence against the country's most marginalized groups continues. In a
291-page report released on April 14, "Broken People: Caste Violence
Against India's `Untouchables,'" Human Rights Watch documented other
recent
incidents of violence in Bihar in which private militias like the Ranvir

Sena have killed Dalit villagers with impunity.  Extremist guerrilla
groups
have retaliated by killing high-caste villagers, leading to an
escalating
cycle of violence. Such attacks on civilians constitute violations of
international humanitarian law.  Human Rights Watch has called for
independent investigations into the killings and for the disarming of
the
militias. The group has also urged that authorities provide full
security
to villagers against further Ranvir Sena attacks.

"The government's failure to stop the Ranvir Sena this time and protect
these Dalit villages amounts to criminal negligence," said Patti
Gossman,
senior researcher for the Asia division of Human Rights Watch.

The Ranvir Sena, which is one of the most prominent militias, has been
responsible for the massacre of more than 400 Dalit villagers in Bihar
between 1995 and 1999. Within a span of three weeks in January and
February
1999, sena members killed 34 Dalit villagers in two separate attacks.
On
March 19, 1999, members of the Maoist Communist Centre, a guerrilla
organization with low-caste supporters, beheaded 33 upper-caste
villagers
in retaliation for the sena killings.

Despite the fact that the senas frequently give warnings before they
attack, little has been done to protect vulnerable villages and prevent
attacks. The senas, which claim many politicians as members, operate
with
impunity.  In some cases, police have accompanied them during their
attacks
and have stood by as they killed villagers in their homes.  In other
cases,
police raids have followed attacks by the senas.  The purpose of the
raids
is often to terrorize Dalits as a group, whether or not they are members
of
guerilla organizations. During the raids, the police have routinely
beaten
villagers, sexually assaulted women, and destroyed property. Sena
leaders
and police officials have never been prosecuted for such killings and
abuses.

Human Rights Watch reiterates its call on the Indian government at the
central and state level to implement a 1989 law banning atrocities
against
Dalits.

The report on caste violence is available online at:
     www.hrw.org/reports/1999/indiAt 12:05 PM 4/30/99 -0700, you wrote:
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>
Henry Thiagaraj
Managing Trustee, Dalit Liberation Education Trust
46 Main Butt Road, St. Thomas Mount, Chennai 600016, India
Phone +91- 44-2341146 / 2331199         Home phone 4421676
Fax +91-44-4913365
email:  hremi@vsnl.com



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