Convention on Dalit Rights Calls for Fighting Caste Oppression
Virendra Singh Malik
A STATE level Dalit Rights Convention against caste based discrimination, oppression and exploitation and for social justice was held in Hisar on November 29, 2015. The venue was the Sant Kabir Hostel. The convention was attended by over 1300 delegates coming from all over the state. The participation was beyond the expectations of the organising committee which underlined the urgency and need of such an exercise.
The convention was being held in line with the aims and objectives of the national level Dalit Shoshan Mukti Manch. Moreover, Haryana has been in news for various attacks and atrocities on dalits, women and weaker sections of the society; though the party and various mass organisations have been taking up the issues of the victims going beyond their capacities but the need for a platform to fight out these attacks and for raising the dalit issues had been felt for long. Handbills and posters were distributed as part of preparations for this convention.
The convention was presided over by a five member presidium consisting of Ramkumar Sulchani, Suresh Kumar, member of zilla parishad, Usha Saroha, Sukdev and Manoj. The convention unanimously formed a state forum, Dalit Adhikar Manch, to fight against the atrocities on dalits and for organising a social justice campaign in the state. Prof. (Retd.) Modi Ram a veteran college teachers’ movement leader, welcomed the delegates on behalf of the reception committee.
Prof. Modi Ram, in his welcome address, underlined the historic role of Hisar in the freedom struggle during 1857 when the Britishers were bravely fought in the whole area. He also reminded that Hisar had been the working place of Lala Lajpat Rai, founder of the AITUC and also a towering personality of the democratic movement in Haryana. Comrade Prithivi Singh Gorakhpuria, Comrade Parbhat Singh, Party secretariat member and trade union leader also belonged to Hisar, who had started organising the unorganised sector workers especially brick kiln workers, gramin chowkidars, construction workers whose majority belongs to the SCs and OBCs. He asserted that this convention would prove to be a milestone for raising the voice of the dalits and downtrodden.
The convention was inaugurated by Dr Ram Chandra Dom, seven time MP and prominent leader of the national executive of the Dalit Shoshan Mukti Manch. He reminded that Haryana is the birth place of Ravi Das who gave the message of equality and fraternity and was a torch bearer of the fight against all kinds of social evils. While paying homage to Dr B R Ambedkar on the occasion of 125th birth anniversary, Dr Dom said that the parliament session dedicated to Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar could not bring out anything concrete from the discussions held for two days. He said that the plight of SC/ST and Backward classes has not changed for the better in spite of 68 years of independence. Their conditions continue to be grim even today. For the upliftment of the SC and STs, he emphasised the need of providing reservation in private sector, passing the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Bill 2015, making the SC Sub-Plan mandatory and taking severe action against the perpetrators of atrocities against dalits. While paying homage and expressing anguish over burning to death of two children in Sunpedh village of Faridabad district, he demanded immediate action against the culprits of this heinous crime.
The main resolution of the convention was placed by Ramkumar Bahbalpuria and seconded by Inderjit Singh. The resolution underlined that 98.8 percents of the dalits are landless in Haryana and depend on physical labour only for sustenance. Only 6.5 percent families have government jobs and only 1.18 percent own four wheelers. Dalits lag far behind other sections of the society in literacy, health, nutrition, average age etc. Child mortality rate is high among Dalits. Though there is a statutory provision of providing thirty percent panchayati land to SCs for cultivation, it is seldom done.
The resolution expressed grave concern on increasing incidents of social oppression, setting their houses on fire, forcing them to leave their homes and imposing social boycotts. The image of the state has been tarnished by the incidents of Dulina, Bhagana, Mirchpur, Harsola, Bataud, Sunpedh etc. It has been noticed that the role of police and district administration in cases of atrocities on dalits continuously remains biased against the victims only. Even the funds for SC/ST Sub-Plans are not utilised fully for their upliftment.
The resolution underlined the dire need of social reform movement in Haryana along with firm actions by the administrative machinery in cases of caste oppression. The resolution demanded that SC/ST Commission be constituted in the state, recruitment of SCs in government jobs to fulfill the backlogs be undertaken, provisions for compensation to landless sections also in case of land acquisition be made, ensuring the allocations of panchayat land to SCs as per their quota, enactment of comprehensive social security legislation for the agriculture workers and enriching and strengthening the MNREGA were demanded. It also demanded construction of hostels for SC students and scholarships, easy loan to SCs and ensuring allotment of residential plots and food security.
Inderjit Singh, while seconding the resolution, said that as far as there is social inequality in society, it cannot advance. He said that there is increasing assertion from these sections which the powerful sections are not ready to accept. He called upon the dalits to accept this challenge against all odds and reminded that one has to go through severe pain to generate something new as happens with the mother while giving birth to a child. He said that CPI(M) and the red flag had always been in the forefront in the fight against atrocities on dalits and it never cared for electoral losses. He warned the audience that today when the assertion among dalits against their exploitation is increasing, there are efforts to contain and channelise this anger on caste lines in the name of identity politics. He said that the most important issue at this juncture is: whether this assertion among dalits will take a democratic direction and contribute in the annihilation of exploitation or the forces of identity politics would be successful in containing this on narrow caste lines only.
The state secretary of Party, Surender Singh, also addressed the convention. While thanking the people of Hisar and all the mass organisations for making the convention a grand success, he said that the real work has started now. He expressed hope that all the mass organisations and other social organisations would support the activities of their Manch and it would really emerge as a true platform to fight for the rights of dalits and downtrodden sections. He said that today those forces are in power who had no role in the freedom struggle, rather they were busy in serving the Britishers and craving for Hindu Rashtra. Today also they are doing the same. Their Hindu Rashtra means that dalits are governed by ‘Manusmriti’. He drew attention of the audience towards a recent incidence of insulting a dalit IPS officer by the health minister of Haryana at a Grievances committee meeting and her ultimate transfer. While condemning the state government for this conduct, he called upon the delegates to rise for making an egalitarian society.
The convention was also addressed by zila parishad member Birmati, Udaybhan Chopra of Amberkar Sabha, Indraj Bharti of the Ravidas Sabha, Rattan Badgujjar of the Kabirdas Sabha, Mian Singh of the Dalit Margdarshan, Naresh Shastri,president Nagar Palika Karamchari Sangh, Krishna Duggal of the All India Dhanak Sabha, Dr Pratap Singh, SP Singh, RC Jagga and others.
In the end a 22 member committee of Dalit Adhikar Manch was elected unanimously with Ramkumar Bahabalpuria as convener and consisting of Usha Saroha, Vinod Kumar, Manoj Kumar, Naresh Shastri, Savita, Suresh Kumar, Ram Avtar Sulchani, Rajesh Kumar, Parvesh Kumari, Saroj, Gagan Deep Kaur, Sukhdev Singh, Sohan Dass, Rajkumar, Adv. Sanjeev Kumar, Om Parkash Singhmar, Susheel Kumar, Sapna, Prem Chand, Chand Bahadur, Rohtash Talav and Master Rohtash. Later an advisory body shall also be constituted. The committee members represent various mass organisations and employees sections.
The SFI team also staged a play based on ‘Sadgati’ story of Munshi Prem Chand.