UK Caste Watch Group to Join Protest against Modi in London; Expresses Solidarity With #AwardWapsi

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Narendra Modi addresses a poll rally at Saharsa in Bihar. Indian Express/Prashant Ravi
Narendra Modi addresses a poll rally at Saharsa in Bihar. Indian Express/Prashant Ravi

M Ghazali Khan 

Our Correspondent

LONDON — One of the largest rights organizations working against caste discrimination and caste crimes, CasteWatchUK, has announced it would be participating in the demonstration against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to be held on November 12 at Downing Street.

Dalit women protesting outside Indian High Commission in London
Dalit women protesting outside Indian High Commission in London

A protest call by organizations like the Awaaz, South Asia Solidarity Group would have been well attended but with CasteWatchUK’s announcement that it would also be protesting against Modi visit it is being speculated that it would be a massive protest in thousands.

Expressing, “its profound concern about the marked deterioration of Human Rights in India since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government of Narendra Modi came to power” a press release issued by CasteWatchUK says, “There has, in particular, been an acute escalation of barbaric attacks on Dalits which are a direct result of the upper-caste Hindu supremacist ideology of the BJP. We note that it is against this background that Mr Modi has decided to visit the UK.”

As part of his campaign to woo Dalit voters in Bihar Modi had earlier announced that during his UK visit he would visit Dr B. R. Ambedkar’s house in London, where the Dalit icon lived, and would formally inaugurate it.

Condemning the move as “cynical PR exercise” the press release quotes CateWatchUK’s Chairman Mr Muman as saying, “We regard Modi’s planned inauguration of Ambedkar House as a cynical PR exercise which aims merely to show the world that he cares about the Dalit community. However, it is also an insult to the memory of Ambedkar. There is a danger that the continued hero-worship of Prime Minister Modi will move the country down a slippery slope towards dictatorship and fascism.”

The press release cites Cabinet Minister General V K Singh’s statement, in which he had likened the brutal killing and burning alive of two Dalit children, aged two years and 11 months, in Haryana, to “someone throwing stones at a dog” as an example of the “contemptuous” attitude Narendra Modi’s ministers have for Dalits.

It adds “India is still predominantly a feudal society. Dominant castes, who in rural India are the landowners, perpetrate the most heinous crimes of rape, arson, murder of Dalits, specifically targeting women and children. Dalit women are often forced to parade naked sometimes for the most minor of disagreements, or else even for ‘not showing respect’. There is also a propensity by the ruling elites to dismiss atrocities as law and order issues. Studies show, however, that Dalits are specifically targeted because of the resentment felt by upper-castes, particularly when Dalits try to rise above the down-trodden status ascribed to them, or when they try to assert their human rights.”

The press release adds, According to a recent report in the Times of India dated 22 October 2015, crimes against Dalits, who are also known as Scheduled Castes (SCs), rose 19 percent last year, on top of a 17 per cent increase in 2013. In addition, as many as 744 Dalits were murdered last year, up from 676 in 2013. In Haryana alone, 21 Dalits were murdered in 2014.

“According to statistics compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) in 2012 there were 33,655 crimes against Scheduled Castes (or Dalits) about the same as in 2011. These figures rose to a horrific 47,064 in 2014 from 39,408 in 2013.

“In fact, the rate of such crimes against Dalits surpassed the national average in as many as 10 states in 2013 and 2014. The rate of crime is the number of crimes reported against SCs per [100,000] of their population. In 2014, the rate of crime against Dalits was 23.4 and in 2013 it was 19.57.

“NCRB statistics show that 2,233 Dalit women were raped in 2014, up from 2,073 in 2013, 1,576 in 2012, 1,557 in 2011, 1,349 in 2010 and 1,346 in 2009. Kidnappings and abductions also went up in these years, barring in 2012 when there was a marginal decline. Against 755 kidnappings/abductions in 2014, there were 628 in 2013, 490 in 2012, 616 in 2011, 511 in 2010 and 512 in 2009.”

CasteWatchUK further says, “Social boycott is another weapon used to suppress the Dalits often rendering them helpless, unable to purchase goods or go into fields to graze animals, or even walk down a pathway wearing decent clothes as this is frowned upon by dominant castes as being above their station. If they start a small scale business then dominant castes ostracise them.”

It reads, “Where law enforcement agencies actually do their job they have frequently faced threat, for example, as the Hindu Newspaper reported on 2 November 2015:

On 31st October, officers representing the district administration had a tough time in Village Sigaranahalli in Holenarasipur [district] taluk on Saturday evening, when they visited the village following a complaint from Dalit families alleging that the dominant castes had imposed a social boycott on them. The dominant castes allegedly surrounded the officers and challenged them to file cases against them, whilst defending the social boycott on Dalits in the village.

“At the same time there are many instances where law enforcement agencies work in collusion with politicians. A series of murders where this collusion took place in Bihar, in the 90s, was recently exposed by Cobrapost, an Indian news portal and here the upper-castes were supported by upper-caste Hindu supremacists. Not one of the killers has been sentenced.

“CasteWatchUK supports the statements by the numerous intellectuals, academics, eminent scientists, historians, free thinkers and literary figures who are returning India’s top civilian awards in protest. As one prominent scientist, Dr P. M. Bhargava recently said: “We reject the narrow view of India that seeks to dictate what people will wear, think, eat and who they will love. … we appeal to all other sections of society to raise their voice against the assault on reason and scientific temper [that] we are witnessing in India today.”

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