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Dalits too scared to vote!

Please help make the Manifesto better, or accept it, and propagate it!
This is too bad!

Ram Narayanan


Jehanabad Dalits too scared to vote=20
By Vidya Subrahmaniam=20

JEHANABAD: Jehanabad went to the polls much like any other part of Bihar 
on Saturday, except that one community hardly did any voting - the 
Dalits for whom asking to exercise their franchise means facing the
terror of the dreaded Ranvir Sena.

The Dalits in this central Bihar district have seen so many bloody 
massacres, and indeed live in such fear of reprisals that most of them 
have come to accept that they cannot vote. The majority stayed home and 
the few that ventured out returned knowing that their votes had already 
been cast. Worse still, this farcical voting had taken place under the 
watchful eyes of the law. Neither the large number of police pickets 
posted locally nor the forces deputed especially for the elections came 
to the aid of the Dalits.

The official explanation for the heavy police presence in the Dalit 
areas is that they are there to protect the community from the Ranvir 
Sena. The first batch of Bihar Military Police (BMP) arrived after the 
Laxmanpur Bathe massacre in 1997. Now Police pickets swamp the Dalit 
areas; they have taken over schools, health centres and other public 
places. As a result, there is virtually no schooling available for the 
Dalit children and almost no medical attention at hand.

Take Narayanpur village in Pai Bigha, which lost 11 people to a blood 
bath carried out by the Ranvir Sena in February 1999. After the event, 
politicians flocked to the village, made stirring speeches and promised 
jobs and compensation. A bit of the latter has come in, but there are no 
jobs left. The upper caste Bhumihars - the same caste that forms the 
Ranvir Sena - for whom the Dalits worked as bonded labourers no longer 
want them in their employ.

And on Saturday, when the more daring of the Dalits went out to vote, =
they were shooed away by a gun-wielding mob that then went on to cast =
their votes. Polling took place in the same building that was once the =
village school but has since been taken over by the BMP. The police =
version was typical. They told this correspondent that they had seen no =
rigging, that peace prevailed throughout.=20

The story was the same elsewhere in the district. In the exclusively =
Dalit bastis there was little voting and where the Dalits formed the =
smaller community they voted as per the writ of the upper castes.=20

What explains the Sena's formidable power? In each of the six assembly =
constituencies that together make up Jehanabad district, the Sena has a =
candidate of its own. Not all candidates thus favoured have to be =
Bhumihars. The condition is that they should take on the CPI(ML) which =
has been backing the Dalits.=20

In Makhdampur - where Pai Bigha falls - the Sena's choice apparently is =
the Congress candidate, a Bhumihar. In village after village here, =
people talk of booth capturing by the panja. In Arwal and Masodi, the =
Sena's support is for the JD(U) and Samata candidates. One is a Yadav =
and the other is a Kurmi. Thus, rather than back only one party, the =
Sena has put its money on candidates best placed to fight the Dalits. As =
the locals say: It is Bhumihar party versus Harijan party.=20

However, people here believe that the Ranvir Sena has a soft spot for =
the NDA as a whole. Perhaps this explains why the Dalits of this region =
are once again looking to Laloo, after moving in the intervening years =
towards the CPI(ML). With the RJD regime seemingly on its way out, Laloo =
Prasad Yadav's importance has suddenly dawned on the community. To some =
Dalits, he is once more the messiah who gave them dignity. But to many =
others, it is Laloo's muscle power that counts: The Sena's brute =
strength versus Laloo's brute strength.=20

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