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Sunday, February 12, 2012

In search of justice

“Time has come for the political encounter of Narendra Modi. Before thirty years nine Muslim MLAs got elected to Gujarat legislative assembly. Today there are only four. The remaining seats have been filled by BJP. To achieve this result BJP had instigated Dalits, Tribals and other backward castes. The seats which were grabbed from Muslims have been captured by BJP. Not a single Dalit, Tribal or OBC get elected from these seats. If Narendra Modi really wants Sadbhavna, he would have at least one Muslim minister in his cabinet….

Minister, Anandi Patel went to Dalit maholla of Patan and washed feet of dalit senior citizens. Dalits of entire Gujarat, particularly saffron dalits were pleased by this act. Anandibahen is doing this only for votes…. Even a youth of Godhara can become chief minister of Gujarat, provided he fights for the equality and justice for all. Dalits, Tribals and other backward castes are also in search if justice. If you fight for their rights, you will win definitely….”

(Raju Solanki, in Godhara convention “in search of justice”)

Monday, February 6, 2012

blood under saffron (2005)

Social Justice

The system of untouchability has been a goldmine for the Hindus. This system affords 60 millions of untouchables to do the dirty work of scavenging and sweeping to the 240 million Hindus who are debarred by their religion to do such dirty work. But the work must be done for the Hindus and who else than the untouchables?
                                               Dr. B R Ambedkar

What is social justice? An overdosed, over-used cliché or a marketing strategy to create a niche? For Dalits in Gujarat, the official meaning of social justice is different. To begin the exercise, let us read the Gujarat villages Panchayats’ Social Justice Committee (Constitution and Functions) rules, 1995, i.e. the Panchayat rules, 1995.

According to The Panchayat rules, 1995, one of the functions of this so-called Social Justice Committee is “to ensure systematic disposal of carcasses and to provide means for the disposal of unclaimed corpses and carcasses and to define places for the purpose of disposal of unclaimed corpses and carcasses.”

The Social justice committee comprises, one member belonging to the Valmiki (Safai Kamdar) Community, three members belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and one woman member from Scheduled Castes.

It is very clear that the government has imposed the duty of disposing dead animals on the Social Justice Committee. This provision or legal obligation reveals the official meaning of social justice. Ironically enough, The Civil Rights Protection Act, 1995 declares such kind of acts as enforcement of untouchability.

The section 7 (a) 1 of the said act says: “The compelling of any person out of ‘untouchability’ to do scavenging, sweeping, removing of carcasses, flaying of animals or removing of umbilical cord has been made punishable.”

What kind of punishment Dalits of Gujarat would declare to their foolish, semi-literate, wretched representatives who remained silent in the legislative assembly during the enactment of this pernicious act? Panchayat Rules, 1995 is marked with unacceptable logic and unrealistic assumptions of our law-makers. Look at some functions of the committee.

 (b) To look after street-light facility of the weaker sections of the society, provided  there are street-lights in the village.

(g) To look after bathing and washing facility for the weaker sections of the society, provided such facilities exist for general public.”

The meaning: The weaker sections should never aspire for street-lights, bathing and washing facility, if such facilities do not exist for ‘general’ public. Panchayat rules, 1995 repealed the earlier act of 1975, i.e., the Gujarat Gram and Nagar Panchayat Social Justice Committee (Constitution and Functions) Rules, which was enacted during Congress rule. Thus, the meaning of social justice has not changed either in pseudo-secularist state or in Hindu-nationalist state!

Atrocious Ignorance of a Chief Minister

Under The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, it is the duty of District Superintendent of Police (DSP) to appoint an officer not below the rank of DySP as an investigating officer for the offences registered under the same act. This provision is quite well-known.

Gujarat state assembly

 On 16 April, 2004, MLA from Jamnagar Rural asked a question to chief minister Modi in Gujarat legislative assembly: “Honorable chief minister [Home] may oblige us to tell that, is it true that the DSP is responsible for the appointment of an officer not below the rank of DySP as investigating officer in the offences under atrocities act? The answer of our chief minister is shocking. He said: “No, but there is a provision under rule 7 (1) of SC/ST act, 1995 to appoint officers not above the rank of DySP to inquire into all cases booked under atrocities act. It is not the responsibility of DSP.”

“The officer not above the rank of DySP” means he may be a P.S.I. or P.I. and in most of the atrocities cases courts acquit the accused because the investigation officer is either P.S.I. or P.I. Over 150 such judgments collected by the Council for Social Justice revealed that in 95% of the cases, the accused have been acquitted because of negligence on part of the authorities. In number of these cases, while the accused has been convicted under IPC section for murder and attempt to murder, he has gone scot-free on the atrocity charge.

In one judgment, an honorable judge even went on to say that, “the government of Gujarat has in the year 1999 passed a resolution amending the Atrocities Act 1989, whereby the investigation can be undertaken even by a police officer not below the rank of P.I.” The Atrocities Act was enacted by parliament of India. No state government can pass any resolution to amend the act. When the chief minister and a judge both possess utter ignorance about an important act, what can we expect from an ordinary constable 
or clerk of this machinery?

Social Welfare or Fanfare?

 Year 2004. Gujarat Safai Kamdar Vikas Nigam organized a function to distribute cheques worth Rs. 1, 56, 88,780 to 149 persons belonging to Valmiki community. In Gujarat, more than one lakh families of Valmiki, not only live below poverty line, but below human dignity line, too. They still carry human excreta on their heads. Rs. 1.56 crore is nothing but peanuts and a cruel joke for a section of untouchables who are, still reeling under the curse of Hinduism, the untouchability.

Details of deaths and injuries caused to sweepers while cleaning underground sewerage systems and sewage tanks are mentioned below. The shocking list is based on Gujarati newspaper clippings covering the period 1989 to 2003:

1. Two brothers drowned and died of asphyxiation caused by poisonous gas while descending to clean sewerage. [21 February, 1989, Umreth, Jansatta, Anand]

2. In sewage disposal work during last six years 11 employees died while on duty and 20 others persons died of tuberculosis, cancer, paralysis, heart disease and respiratory problems. Every year about 3 to 4 young employees succumb to untimely death due to this suffocating and gaseous atmosphere. [17 July 1989, Gujarat Samachar, Vadodara]

3.  Descended to clean drainage line of Calico Polyester Fiber, two sweepers were drowned and died of asphyxiation caused by poisonous gas inside 50 feet deep gutter. [31 August 1989, Sandesh, Vadodara]

4. Two workers descended to clean underground sewerage near C.M.C. Factory, off Odhav Road. They died of asphyxiation. [24 September 1989 Sandesh, Vadodara]

5.   Two laborers died inside a gutter when they descended to clean sewerage near Bhagwannagar chhapara, Navrangpura. [11 August 1990 Jansatta, Ahmedabad]

6.   During unearthing a manhole of sewerage line which was under construction near Narnarayan Society, Maninagar three persons seriously injured. Amongst them one woman labourer lost her consciousness and others two succumbed to death during treatment. [17 August 1990 Jansatta Ahmedabad]

7. Ranchhod Dhana Harijan and kanti Dhana Harijan became unconscious due to poisonous gas while cleaning underground sewage tank of Ambalal Patel. [3 December 1990 Pipariya,Taluka Vaghodara,Sandesh]

8. One labourer died due to poisonous gas while cleaning sewerage near Gitamandir Bus-stand. [26 March 1991 Ahmedabad]

9. Three workers died of asphyxiation when they were cleaning underground sewage tank in premises of a private company. [23 July 1992 Jansatta, Ahmedabad]

10. Having descended to clean one underground sewage tank, two young laborers dipped and died. [23 March 1992 Jansatta, Surat]

11. Ramesh Harijan and Jagu Nadia while cleaning the sewerage on the main road in Karelibaug area of Ward: 8 in Baroda became unconscious due to poisonous gas of the sewerage. [23 March 1992 Gujarat Samachar, Vadodara]

12. Mangal Solanki, who descended to clean sewerage in Nizampura, became unconscious due to poisonous gas inside the sewerage. [18 July 1992 Gujarat Samachar, Vadodara]

13. Kalidas Chauhan, residing behind Pratapnagar police chawki, was burnt while cleaning sewerage in Gajarwasi, Pareshnagar. The cause of injury was surprising. Kalidas descended into the sewerage with a lit bidi in his hand. When it came into contact with gaseous atmosphere, it caused burn and injury. [4 April 1993 Sandesh, Vadodara]

14. Three young workers died of asphyxiation when they descended into sewerage during work of drainage connection at Rander Road. They were Chhagan Bhila, Sursing Jhala, Tagga Parima. [4 April 1993, Fulchnab, Surat]

15.  Laljibhai Chaturbhai Vasava and Ladhubhai Sukabhai Vasava descended to clean a Sewage tank in Gamadiwad of Vejalpore at Bharuch. They died of asphyxiation caused by poisonous gas of sewage tank. [6 May 1993 Loksatta, Bharuch]

16. One sweeper became unconscious while cleaning sewerage. [19 March 1994, Sandesh Ahmedabad]

17. Two died and one seriously injured due to poisonous gas at Pirana sewage pumping station. [23 May 1994 Gujarat Samachar Ahmedabad]

18. Two died and three seriously injured due to asphyxiation caused by poisonous gas inside sewerage.  [14 June 1995 Gujarat Samachar, Ahmedabad]

19. Two died of asphyxiation caused by poisonous gas while cleaning sewerage system in Vastrapur. [14 June 1995 Gujarat Samachar Ahmedabad]

20. Two employees of Municipal Corporation died of asphyxiation while cleaning sewerage in Pandesara GIDC. [10 October 1995 Gujarat Mitra, Surat]

21. Chunibhai Gandabnai Chaudhary, a sweeper in Mandavi Gram  Panchayat, died of asphyxiation in 30 feet deep sewerage full   of sewage. [23 August 1996 Gujarat Mitra, Surat]

22. At midnight dead body of a sweeper, Valjibhai Sanabhai, was found from drainage in Bapunagar. He had descended to clean the gutter. [21st October 1996, Gujarat samachar Ahmedabad]

23. Two brothers descended to clean the manhole of sewerage system at Hotel Grand Bhagwati, One died, the other serionsly injured. [24 June 2004, Sandesh, Ahmedabad]

This list shows that 54 sweepers were killed during 1989 to 2004. The reality must have been more shocking than what has been reported in the newspaper. We must ask a simple question to our Ministers, politicians and bureaucrats who are fond of holding cheque distribution ceremonies under full glare of T.V. cameras, whether they have ever taken care to provide adequate compensation to these mute victims of this pernicious system? Does Mr. Narendra Modi bother to consider these sweepers as Hindus only when he decides to author state-sponsored genocide?

Dogs, Cats and Dalits
The beasts without a burial ground

What is the similarity between dogs, cats and Dalits in India? All of them have no burial ground. And as a matter of fact, sometime dogs and cats do have specific burial grounds; Dalits do not have such a place where they can bury their dead. Sounds strange! But it is the bitter truth and a simple fact of life in most of the villages of Gujarat.

Very few people know that the practice of Dalits burying their dead was one of the ten tests which were laid down by the census of 1911 to mark off untouchables from those who were touchable. Dalits being the most marginalized and oppressed community didn’t have a legally defined, specific piece of land where they could bury their dead. The situation has not changed in 21st century.

Ruppur: Fight for burial place

dalits outside collecter office,Patan
When some 80 helpless, landless families marched across dusty, narrow lanes of Ruppur village [district Patan] in the afternoon of 9th April 2003, the banners hung on their camel carts had slogans which were asking, “When the question of Ram taking birth at a particular place before 5000 years is described as a matter of Hindu sentiment should we remain silent when Dalits’ sentiment for their graveyard is crushed?” And “Is this the way to materialize the pledge of Hindu Rashtra?”

In Ruppur not only Dalits but Ravals (OBC) too, have been burying their dead in the graveyard, the land which has now become prime land due to the newly built Chanashma-Patan highway. The land of graveyard was recorded as gauchar [grazing land] instead of burial ground. The upper caste, namely Patels of the village grabbed the land measuring 12,468 square meters on rent of just one rupee from the government. When Dalits and Ravals protested against the upper caste-bureaucratic nexus, they were socially boycotted. They met district collector for help, he simply gathered written statements of caste-Hindus and reported that there was no social boycott as such.

Ultimately 85 families, including 55 of Dalits and 30 of Ravals, migrated to district collector office at Patan. Later on, the collector accepted the burial rights of Dalits and the High Court, too, considered the decision of collector in a writ petition filed by Council for Social Justice. The matter does not end here. So many Ruppurs are, still, waiting to happen in rural Gujarat. 

Rupur is village of Karsan Patel, the richest person of Gujarat. When Karsan's relatives were oppressing, suppressing, insulting, humiliating and intimidating Dalits, the 'civil society' was watching atrocities with its trademark silence. And when same Karsan Patel attempted to seize fertile land of Mahuva, a historical agitation (in their word and world!) was launched..... The upper caste hindus are not ready to recognise movements of dalits. For them dalits are 'project material', dalits can not be leaders!
Kunvarbai Nu Mameru

Beggars Have No Choice

 ‘Mameru’ is a gift of some precious ornaments given by maternal uncle to his niece on the occasion of her marriage ceremony. In Gujarat we call maternal uncle, ‘mama’ and hence whatever mama gives is ‘mameru’.

‘Kunvarbai nu mameru’ is a government scheme to donate Mangal Sutras to Scheduled Caste brides. Mangal Sutra is again an ornament, which is given by a husband to his wife. In fact, BJP government, the political husband of Scheduled Castes, gives Mangal Sutra in the name of mameru. Any sensible Dalit having a feeling of self-respect would refuse such a thing.

Narasinh Maheta, father of Kunvarbai was a saint of 11th century. He was a poor, unskilled Brahmin, not efficient in any trade to earn livelihood. He used to wonder with his tambura (a desi musical instrument). It is said that on his daughter’s marriage, Lord Krishna appeared, personated as Sheth Sagalshah and gave money to the needy father. Are we, Dalits, Narsinh Mahetas, poor and unskilled? Kunvarbain nu Mameru is glaring example of BJP’s hypocrisy and mawkish populism which has nothing to do with emancipation of Dalits.

Satyawadi Raja Harishchandra Maranottar sahay yojana
(A scheme to subsidize funeral of Dalits)

The government gives Rs. 1,500 to perform last rituals of a Dalit. Why has the name of “Satyawadi Raja Harishchandra” been given to this scheme? According to myth, Rishi Vishawamitra cursed king Harishchandra, who became servant of a dom (chandal, an untouchable). When Queen Satyavati, wife of Harishchandra, tried to perform last rites of their son, at river Ganga, Harishchandra prevented her because she had no money to pay the tax to Chandal. Thus, a Kshatriya couple was humiliated and could not perform last rites of their son. Saffron ideologues have not forgotten the humiliation of their mythical ancestors two thousand years ago.

Hindu Society as such does not exist. It is only a collection of castes. Each caste is conscious of its existence. Its survival is the be all and end all of its existence. Castes do not even form a federation. A caste has no feeling that it is affiliated to other castes except when there is a Hindu-Muslim riot.  
 Dr. B. R. Ambedkar

In the year 2002 a train was burnt at Godhra railway station in Gujarat. 58 Hindus were charred to death in the tragedy. Riots spread like a prairie fire. Massacres like Gulbarg society, Naroda Patia, Sardarpura and Best Bakery showed the ugliest face of a state which is called the land of non-violence. What was the role of Gujarat government and police during the riots is now, not a matter of speculation.

In fact, the moment massacres started with the connivance of ministers and top bureaucrats, Modi government, instead of putting real culprits behind the bar, unleashed a reign of terror by arresting innocent people in Dalit Muslim areas.

Table: 1 shows the figures of total arrests made in the jurisdiction of 32 police stations in and around Ahmedabad just after Godhra tragedy. (i.e. during 1 march, 2002 to 4 June, 2002)

Table: 1

Police station wise breakup of arrests

Ahmedabad City

Amraiwadi  133, Ellisbridge 44, Odhav 27, Kagdpith 150, Karanj 56, Kalupur 44, Khadiya  34, Gomtipur 380, Ghalodiya 18, GIDC 44, Dariyapur 36, Dalillimada 390, Naroda  53, Navrangpura  38, Naranpura   66, Bapunagar  37, Maninagar  93, Madhupura 310, Meghaninagar 7, Rakhiyal 34, Vatava 116, Vejalpur 43, Saherkotda 87, Shahpur 122, Shahibhaug 77, Sarkhej  104, Sardanagar 28, Satelite 49, Sabarmati 104, Sola  9,  Sola Highway  12, Haveli   186, Memnagar 4

Total    2945

   The analysis of table: 1 shows that,

  •   From 1-3-2002 to 4-6-2002 the police arrested a total 2945 persons in areas under 33 police stations in and around Ahmedabad city.

  •  Out of total arrested persons 1326 were from Dalit areas like Amaraiwadi (133), Kagadapith (150), Gomatipur (380), Danilimada (390), Haveli (186) and Shaherkotada (87). Thus, 45.05 percent (1326) of total arrests were from Dalit dominated areas.

  •   In the areas of Dalits-Muslim neighbourhood, viz. Gomatipur (380), Danilimada (390), Shaherkotada (87) and Haveli (186), total 857 were arrested. Thus, 35.41 percent of total arrests were from Dalit-Muslim areas.

  •  Police arrested only 17 persons in Meghaninagar, 28 in Sardarnagar and 53 in Naroda during this period. These are the places where the worst communal carnage like Gulbarg Society and Naroda Patia took place.

  •  Was police searching for the accused of Gulbarg  Society and Naroda Patia in Dalit areas ?

  •  Who had provoked the violence? Who was victimized? We can’t get a true picture from these figures of arrests made under different police stations of Ahmedabad. Let us analyze the figures community wise.

Table: 2

Community                            Arrest                       Percentage

Hindu                                      1577                           53.44
Muslim                                   1368                           46.45

  •  Hindus formed majority of arrested people. But, looking at the percentage of minority community (46.45 %), it is obvious that people of minorities were arrested on a large scale in proportion to their population.

It is important to know the percentage of various castes amongst Hindus.

Table: 3

Caste-Wise arrests

  Caste                                              Arrest
                       Brahmin                                             2
                       Bania                                                  2
                       Patel                                                 19
                       Other Caste Hidus                            9
                       Dalits                                               747
                       Other backward castes                   797

Thus, Caste Hindus including Brahmin, Bania and Patel, were only 33 out of arrested 1577 Hindus. Had Caste Hindu camaraderie of Narendra Modi, Pravin Togadia and Ashok Bhatt instructed police not to arrest Caste Hindu rioters who looted big stores like Pantaloons riding in maruti cars or those who had gutted the hotel Down Town just opposite Judge’s Bungalows?

Upper Caste Hindus were only 32 in number out of total 1577 Hindus who were arrested. The rest 1544 belonged to other backward castes (OBC) and Dalits.

Among Hindus number of Dalits was fifty percent.

After Godhra tragedy, most of the incidents of damaging properties of Muslims were systematically triggered in posh, affluent, upper caste dominated western Ahmedabad, where Muslim-owned hotels were ransacked and looted with planning and precision. Is it possible for Dalits living on the east side of the river to participate in this mayhem?

The figures of arrested people living on the west side of the city during the period (1-3-02 to 4-6-02) amply suggest partial, casteist attitude of the police. Ellisbridge (44), Ghatlodiya (18), Navrangpura (38), Naranpura (66), Satellite (49). Thus, only 215 persons were arrested on west side.

Dalit - Muslim Confrontation: A Myth

One may conclude from above mentioned figures that the number of arrests in Dalit-Muslim areas shows confrontation between two communities. This conclusion is false. Look at some basic facts:

  • In all areas where Dalit-Muslim lives together not a single massacre took place.

  • Both communities are numerically in equal proportion. Nobody can subjugate anybody. If one community retaliates, it is only for survival.

  • During last 20 years more than 20 Dalit ghettoes (bastis, mahollas) were deserted in Muslim-dominated areas, like Jamalpur, Raikhad, Shahpur. Neither Dalits nor Muslims were responsible for the migration, because, after the anti-reservation movement of 1981, Hindu fascist forces decided to target Muslims and planned communal riots. Muslims turned back to the walled city for safer habitat, as upper caste dominated western side of the city was becoming increasingly intolerant of Muslims. This process ultimately resulted in Dalit migration from walled city areas.

  • Nobody has noticed this phenomenon. Dalits were bleeding. They were forced to leave their traditional ghettoes. And during these two decades the VHP systematically exploited the helplessness of Dalits, who could not realise that these were the same forces that were behind anti-reservation movements. I explained the plight of Dalits in a meeting on Dalits-Muslim dialogue organised by Mr. Ashgarali Engineer in Ahmedabad.

Constructing wall, destructing harmony
VHP shows the way

Caste Hindus blocked a narrow street which was used by Dalits of vankarvas in Shahpur of Ahmedabad city after the 1981 anti-reservation riots. Now, the lane which Dalits were forced to use was passing through Muslim areas.

After 1985 communal riots life became unbearable for Dalits who were surrounded by both caste-Hindus and Muslims. Dalits were virtually under siege. In a highly charged situation one Muslim family was charred to death in Vankarvas. Police arrested Dalits, majority of who were government employees. Here entered VHP, as savior of Dalits. The VHP helped them by providing tiffins packed with meals in jail and arranging advocates to fight legal battle. Nobody asked the VHP why it hadn’t come forward to break that wall which was the cause of the trouble.


In Ahmedabad, the population of Dalits is 7, 00,000 (i.e.17 %). The level of poverty amongst Dalits is reflected in a survey done by School of Planning in 1998. (See table: 4)

Table: 4

BPL SC families in Ahmedabad (1998)

Khadia 81, Kalupur 01, Dariyapur 30, Raikhad 300, Shahpur 750, Jamalpur 60, Paladi 428, Vasana 1,483, Gandhigram 409, Navrangpura 150, Sardar Stadium 667, Naranpura 253, Vadaj 1,117, Juna Vadaj 1,866, Sabarmati 1,907, Dudheswar 593, Madupura  1,501, Girdharnagar 1,007, Asarva 2,181, Naroda Road 2,951, Sarapur 650, Potalia 1,350, Kubernagar 736, Sardarnagar 750, Saijpurbogha 1,547, Thakkarbapanagar 120, Naroda Muthiya 347, Bapunagar 835, Rakhiyal 1,303, Gomtipur 1,250, Rajpur 1,642, Amaraiwadi 4,285, Bhaipura/Hatkeswar 1,735, Nikol Road   15, Odhav Road 988, Khokhara Mahemdavad 116, Maninagar 641, Kankaria 1,665, Baherampura 2,533, Danilimada 681, Bage firdos 91, Vatava 984, Isanpur  471

Total 42,476

The survey provides the following important conclusions:

  • The number of SC families living below poverty line in Ahmedabad was 42,476.

  • Assuming average five members per family, 2,12,380 Dalits live below poverty line.

  • 30 percent of Dalit population in Ahmedabad lives in abject poverty.

  •  The percentage of BPL families in Gujarat in 1999-2000 was 14.07 %. Thus proportion of poverty was double among dalits compared to average Gujaratis.

These were the figures of an economic capital like Ahmedabad. The situation in villages had to be worse. 

Statistics of Poverty or Poverty of Statistics?

            How credible is the survey of School of Planning can be measured by just one example. The survey mentions only one SC family living below poverty line in Kalupur area. According to our survey in this area there are more than 20 BPL families. In a meeting organized by Social Empowerment Department in Gandhinagar, I asked the minister if there was only one BPL family, then why was the government not able to raise it above poverty line.

            There is another list of SC BPL families published by Rural Development Commissioner. It covers the entire state.

Table: 5

SC BPL families in Gujarat

District                                    Total                                       SC

                              1992            1998                1992               1998

Amedabad            1,78,322          81,384               25,489            13,533
Amreli                   93,818            70,383               14,553            12,168
Kutch                    1,01,233          56,192              16,808            10,108
Kheda                   1,30,715          1,75,098            12,677            21,511
Gandhinagar          22,485             6,474                1,955              968
Jamnagar               81,662             68,361              10,768            11,104
Junagadh               1,56,655          66,051               28,177           15,192
Dang                     27,688             32,646              20                  123
Panchmahal           3,55,084          3,64,581            14,968           13,019
Banaskantha          1,76,599          1,37,892            30,321            24,410
Bharuch                1,67,997          1,39,344            8,126              6,820
Bhavnagar             1,44,418          66,588               15,540            8,195
Mahesana              1,33,445          72,437               20,787            11,956
Rajkot                   1,41,505          67,563               19,205            10,648
Vadodra                1,71,285          86,915               13,622           4,628
Valsad                   1,45,312         1,42,229             3,854             4,241 
Sabarkantha           1,56,869          96,955               19,129           10,591
Surat                      1,45,312        1,91,819              4,848             4,313
Surendranagar       88,572             42,375                17,268           7,964

Total                26,18,940          19,75,267        2,77,815       1,91,492

Politics of Power

1981 Onwards

The year 1981 is very important in the political history of Gujarat. The year witnessed large scale anti-Dalit and anti-reservation riots. Seven Dalits were brutally murdered in the riots started by the Caste Hindus who enjoyed complete control over the state administration, judicial system, education etc. The reason for this absolute control was 2000 year old varna-vyavashtha. At several places across Ahmedabad and in the villages like Detroj and Uttar Sanda Dalit homes were razed and burnt down.

In retaliation to the atrocities committed by the Caste Hindus on them, Dalits boycotted Holi next year. Thousands of people attended conferences organized with the initiative of Dalit Panther. Sangh Parivar was alarmed by the massive response these conferences generated amongst Dalits and the Muslims. To garner the support of Dalits, Adivasis and the OBCs, Sangh Parivar and saints like Sambhu Maharaj started targeting Muslims. This resulted in continuous communal clashes.

The areas dominated by the Caste Hindus in the city became inhabitable for the Muslims. The continuous communal clashes forced the Muslims to migrate to the walled area of the city. Consequently the Dalits became the victims the process. During the past twenty-five years more than twenty ghettos of Dalits in Muslim dominated areas have been deserted. Since the Dalits born after 1981 are not aware of the history of Dalit-Muslim unity in the city, they have been poached by the Sangh Parivar. Same has happened with the Muslim youths who have grown up with anti-Dalit feelings.

 After 1985 when Congress was fast loosing its mass appeal due to corrupt policies, whatever was left of Muslim leadership in the city was finished. The crisis was absolute after the murder of politicians like Rauf Waliullah, who was a man of great integrity. During this political crisis, BJP riding on the wave of Hindutva captured the political space vacated by Congress. Established names in the field of literature also showed their fundamentalist mindsets by electing President of Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Mr. K. K. Shashtri as the President of Gujarati Sahitya Parishad. The election of K. K. Shastri as the president of Gujarati Sahitya Parishad legitimized Hindutva.

Agents of Hindutva: Past and Present:

            In 1985 when 27% reservation was granted to the OBCs, the bandh call given by the anti-reservationists witnessed even the closure of Hindu temples in the state. From 1981 to 1985 religious leaders like Pandurang Athwale tried to seduce OBC castes like rabari, waghri, thakor, kharwa, machimar in the Hindutva ideology.  Pandurang used to say, “the thinking that one can trade in any business of their choice is not desirable, that’s why Ram killed Sambuk”. [Sanskriti Chintan, p. 147]

            Last year in 2005 Jain religious saint Chandrashekhar Vijayji played an important role in filing writ petition against the slaughter houses in Supreme Court. He too like Pandurang started provoking Caste Hindus. As part of his anti-backward campaign Chandrashekhar said,

 “a time will come when backward castes (BC) will capture all positions in the administration and politics. President BC, Prime Minister BC, employees in bank BC, military forces BC, everywhere BC and under their rule the warrior caste (kshatriyas), Brahmins and intelligent Jains”.

“This will not benefit anyone. Not even BCs as they are not eligible for these fields. The BCs do not possess the inherited expertise and intelligence required for these fields. Education is not enough. This is not the way to bring them up”.

 “Cultural experts proclaim that, if they are to be uplifted, their original traditional occupations need to be brought back. Harijans should be given the task of weaving and Girijans should be given dense forest”.

 “Making someone like Jagjivan Ram minister, access to public water tanks will not help. This is cheating. It is a strategy to ruin OBCs by provoking them”.

 Agents of Hindutva played a major role in the political emergence of BJP.

Political loss of Muslims: whose gain?

In 1981 Gujarat Assembly there were 9 Muslim MLAs. The name of all these nine MLAs is given below:

Muslim Representatives: 1980-2006

          Constituency           Muslim Representative                 Present Representative                                                      

Vankaner           Pirzada manzoor  Hussain               Jyotsana  Somani                (BJP)
      Jamnagar          Mohammad Hussain Baloch          Basuben Trivedi                 (BJP)
                 Siddhpur           Sharifbhai Bhati                             Jaswant Singh Rajput          (Cong.)
       Godhara            Abulrahim Khalpa                        Haresh Bhatt                        (BJP)
                  Thasra                Yasin Miyan Malik                       Bhagwan singh chauhan       (BJP)
        Bharuch             Ahmad Patel                                   Ramesh Mistry                   (BJP)
        Surat  (West)      Mohammad Surati (BJP)                Bhawna Chpatawala           (BJP)
                    Kalupur             Moha Hussain Barajiya                  Farukh Sheikh                  (Cong.)
         Jamalpur            Lalbhai  Kundiwala                        Sabir Kabil                     (Cong.)

            Of the nine MLAs, at present only two have been able to reach the assembly. This can be termed as the outcome of Hindutva forces in the last thirty years. The assembly seats from where the Muslims were elected; now they have become the constituencies of upper Caste Hindus. Out of these nine seats six seats are captured by BJP. The loss of seats for the Muslims has not resulted in the increase of Assembly seats for the Dalits, Adivasis and OBCs. The political loss of the Muslims is the gain of upper caste Hindus (Brahmins, Bania, Patel). The political loss of the Muslims has in no way proved to be a gain for the Dalits, Adivasis and OBCs.

            The meaning of Hindutva movement is “jamwa ma swarno, kutwa ma pachato” (in the feast upper caste Hindus, in the battlefield backward caste Hindus). As mentioned earlier, out of 2945 arrests made in Ahmedabad after 2002 riots, 797 were OBCs, 747 Dalits, 19 Patels, 2 Banias and 2 Brahmins. Caste Hindus got the assembly seats and backward Hindus got the jail.

            In the recently conducted study by Indian Social Institute, Jahangirabad Media Institute and ActionAid India, it has been observed that Muslims are as marginalized as Dalits and tribals across the country. Though Muslims are marginalized across India, the agents of Hinduism shamelessly accuses the government of minority appeasement.

Appendix 1

Break the silence

We have tolerated these old hatreds for far too long

            I am a non-convent educated, ordinary Gujarati. My teachers too, were mediocre, middle class people, who never thought of saffronising the curricula they had so meticulously adhered to for decades. They never taught me to wear a murderous weapon like the trishul.
            My forefathers settled in Ahmedabad city nearly five hundred years ago. It is said Ahmedshah Badshah wanted to build Ahmedabad fort on the model of the Patan fort. He invited artisans from Patan and its surrounding villages. My ancestors, who came from Patan, built the fort and the Badshah rewarded them by granting them land to settle in the heart of city. With this background, I humbly claim that nobody in the Vishva Hindu Parishad can match my knowledge about the history and geography of Ahmedabad.

            Let me narrate my firsthand experiences with fascism, another name for Hindu revivalism in my state. The year was 1981 when I was preparing for my Third B.Sc. examination. It was a chilly winter day and I was trying to concentrate on my books. All of a sudden, I heard some noise at a distance. A mob of around 500 people gathered near our Dalit ghetto. They were shouting “Come on, dhedas, fight with us” (dhed is a derogatory term for Scheduled Castes in Gujarat). The mob was carrying a two-wheeler lorry, which in ordinary times is used by sweepers. They showed us the lorry and said: “This is for you. Come on. Sweep.” Then, they pelted stones, acid bulbs, petrol bombs and whatever they had. This was but one of the ugly scenes of the anti-reservation movement in Gujarat, when a particular section of society was systematically isolated. Press, police and politicians joined hands to add fuel to the fire.

            Much has been written on it, but the point is that for the first time in the history of Gujarat and the entire country, the Dalits, in retaliation, boycotted a holy festival. It was a gesture, a warning signal to Hindu society. After 1981, Hindu revivalism gained ground in Gujarat. After 1981, most of the religious processions, which passed through the road adjoining my area, shouted viciously anti-Muslim slogans. It was the same mob which participated in the 1981 anti-reservation agitation. The same hatred, but the target was different.

            In 1985, another anti-reservation movement ravaged Gujarat. But, this time the ruling party had taken care to turn the anti-reservation movement into communal rioting. A senior leader of the Congress party declared in a meeting of party workers, “We have succeeded in turning this agitation into a riot. Hence, our government is saved.” The same year witnessed a 70-day long, historical strike of Gujarat secretariat’s upper caste employees. After some years, Advani was welcomed in the secretariat’s premises by the same upper caste leaders. The then Chiman Patel’s government did nothing to prevent the politicisation of government employees.

            The vital blow to the secular ethos came in the form of shameless selection of Keka Shastri, the chief architect of Hindu revivalism, as president of the Gujarat Sahitya Parishad in 1985. Prominent Gujarati writers and Gandhians whole heartedly supported Keka’s selection as head of the most respected body of literature. The recent attack by BJP activists on peace meetings at Gandhi ashram was nothing but the result of criminal silence of the Gujarati intelligentsia, who have buried their conscience under the heap of Hindutva.

Raju Solanki, Indian Express, 24th April 2002

Appendix 2

Working hard to keep legacy of communal

harmony alive

            Ahmedabad : Few can relate  to the sacrifice of Vasantrao Hegishte and Rajab Ali Lakhani better than Raju Solanki, who has grown up listening to one of the most touching tales of communal harmony - a tale of two youngsters, a Hindu and a Muslim, taking on a frenzied mob in Ahmedabad and laying down their lives for the sake of peace.

            For, Solanki owes a lot to the duo, known to everyone as Vasant-Rajab, who laid down their lives to save his family on Rath Yatra day, 58 years ago in Khand-ni-sheri area in Jamalpur that got engulfed in a communal conflagration. Now, there is a memorial in Khand-ni-sheri, known as Vasant-Rajab chowk. And, 44-year-old Solanki, a Dalit poet-activist, is working hard to spread awareness among his community about the fallout of communal riots.

            Solanki now spends his time interacting with members of his community who stay close to Muslim localities in Ahmedabad. He has also been distributing his research article - ‘Blood under saffron’ - Published with the help of the Behavioural Science Centre, stating how Dalits were used as the cutting edge to fight Muslims during the post Godhra riots.

            “It was my maternal grandfather Dudhabhai, a Dalit industrialist, whose family was surrounded by mobs in Khand-ni-sheri on July 1, 1946. On hearing this, the duo rushed to the spot. They lay down in the way of the mob to save members of my family. My mother then just 16, was inside the house. They saved the family as well as the locality. But the two lost their lives,” Says Solanki, for him, it is now pay-back time. “I am trying to make people aware of the fact that not a single massacre has taken place in areas where Dalits and Muslims live together. In the last few years, the VHP has exploited the helplessness of the Dalits, who failed to realise that these were the same forces behind the anti-reservation movement,” says Solanki.

However, in spite of having suffered at the hands of a mob comprising Muslims, Solanki’s mother and aunt Nirmala, now 87, have no bitterness against anybody. “It was a scary experience. A mob attacked our house. We were four of us inside and my father was away around 5 pm that day. We managed to escape from the back door. Later, we got to know of the bravery shown by the duo,” says Nirmala, a freedom fighter and a retired primary school teacher.

 Harit Mehta, 
Times of India, 29th June 2004