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India
24.09.02
Urgent Interventions

India: mob attacks by the upper caste Jat, Gujjar and Brahmin communities against members of the Dalit community

ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL RIGHTS CONCERN
Case IND 240902. ESCRC

The International Secretariat of OMCT requests your URGENT intervention in the following situation in India.


Brief description of the situation

The International Secretariat of OMCT has been informed by the Asian Human Rights Commission, a member of the OMCT network, of mob attacks by the upper caste Jat, Gujjar and Brahmin communities against members of the Dalit community who were peacefully protesting against caste-based discrimination in the Indian village of Chakwara in the town of Phagi Tehsil in Jaipur District, on September 21 2002.

According to the information received, about 3,000 Dalit women and men, along with representatives from the Centre for Dalit Human Rights (CDHR) and other human rights organisations who had organised a two-day padayatra (a peaceful march) on September 20 and 21 2002, were stopped by the police on September 22 about 15 kilometres from the village of Chakwara, as a huge mob armed with lathis (batons) and weapons were marching toward them. The demonstrators allegedly waited during an hour under the hot sun, and when they finally moved forward, the upper-caste mob pelted them with stones and violently attacked them and the police.

It is also reported that the office of a local organisation, Cecoedecon, based in the village of Madhavrajpura, where the protestors spent the night after the first day of the march from the village of Chaksu, was ransacked and had its furniture destroyed because of its participation in the rally.

During their march, the Dalits were notably demanding the right to access the ghats (a platform with steps) meant for bathing in the public pond in the village, and were more generally protesting against practices of untouchability and the social and economic boycott of the Bairwas (a Dalit community) that has been enforced since December 2001.

According to the information received, tension is still prevailing in Chakwara village and the nearby villages in Malpura, Dudu and Sangamar Thesils, and although the police have been deployed, people fear that there will be further attacks by members of the upper-castes.

Background information

These mob attacks by the upper-caste communities occur against the background of a history of caste violence and discrimination against the Dalit people, involving such practices as prohibition of access to public water facilities (ponds and drinking water), other public amenities and places of worship, bans from restaurants, ration shops, teashops, and other small shops, prohibition of the traditional practice of bridegrooms riding a horse, as well as land alienation, exclusion from employment in the nearby agricultural farms and industries, parading of naked Dalit and tribal women and raping of Dalit and tribal women.

The peaceful protest was notably organized to bring to the attention of the authorities events that occurred since December 14 2001, when Babulal and his brother from the Bairwa community took a bath in the public pond, which resulted in the entire Bairwa community being fined by the village panchayat, under the pretext that this constituted an act of revolt. When the Bubabal family informed the police that a mob had surrounded its house and threatened them with a bloodbath, the police did not arrive until the next day. Then, the upper castes held a meeting and imposed a fine of 50,000 rupees (US$1,034) on Babulal Bairwa for breaking tradition and compromising the dignity of the village by involving the administration. Unable to bear the continued threats of the upper castes, the Bairwas filed a first information report (FIR) at the police station on January 17 2002, naming 17 people as the accused.

A sadbhavana (harmony) rally was subsequently organised in Chakwara by various social movement groups and the CDHR, but the rally was attacked by a mob of about 10,000 upper-caste people armed with lathis and swords who also pelted the rally with stones in the presence of the police, who had to open fire to disperse the crowd.
There was no further action, however, from the district administration and police, and the Bairwas thus approached the State Human Rights Commission. The local police subsequently went to Chakwara and announced that the Dalits could bathe in the public pond, but when the Dalits went to bathe on January 24 2002, they were chased away with lathis and sharp weapons.

Even though Dalits continue to be prevented from using the public pond and other public amenities, the district administration and the state authorities have closed the case, considering that the issue is resolved, which the Dalit people and human rights organisations denounced during their September two-day peaceful protest.
Action Requested

Please write to the Indian authorities urging them to:

i. guarantee an immediate investigation into the circumstances of these events, identify those responsible, bring them before a civil competent and impartial tribunal and apply the penal, civil and/or administrative sanctions provided by law;
ii. take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of the Dalit people and guarantee adequate reparation to all victims and their families;
iii. guarantee the respect of human rights and the fundamental freedoms in accordance with national laws and international human rights standards such as the provisions of Schedule V of the Constitution, Section 4 of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act (POA) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and ILO Convention No 169.

Addresses

· H.E. President Abdul Kalam, Office of the President, Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi 110 004, INDIA Fax: 91-11-301 7290 / 7824; E-mail: Pressecy@Sansad.nic.in
· H.E. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Prime Minister of India, South Block, Raisina Hill, New Delhi, India-110 011 Fax: 91-11-3019545 / 91-11-3016857; E-mail: eindun@undp.org;
· Justice J. S. Verma, Chairperson of National Human Rights Commission (NHR), Sardar Patel Bhavan, Sansad Marg, New Delhi 11001, India, Fax: 91-11-334 0016; E-mail: chairnhrc@nic.in
· Shri Ashok Gehlot, Chief Minister of Rajasthan, Jaipur Rajasthan, INDIA, Fax: 91-141-381687
· Shri Dilip Singh Bhuria, Chairperson of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Schedules Tribes, Floor 5, Lok Nayak Bhavan, Khan Market, New Delhi-110003, INDIA, Tel: 91-11-4623959, Fax: 91-11-4625378

Please also write to the embassies of India in your respective country

Geneva, September 24th, 2002

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.
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