Vol. XLII No. 51 December 23, 2018

HIMACHAL PRADESH: State Level Dalit Convention Held at Shimla

A STATE level convention on the issues of the dalits was held at Shimla on December 8, by the Himachal Dalit Shoshan Mukti Sabha (HDSMS). The convention was inaugurated by Subhashini Ali, vice president of the Dalit Shoshan Mukti Manch. Rakesh Singha, MLA, Onkar Shad, CPI(M) state secretary and Vikram Singh also spoke in the convention.

Subhashini emphasised the importance of the role of the Dalit Sabhas in the Hindi-speaking belt. She said the percentage of literacy amongst dalits is still not at par with the rest of the society. Reservation, which in many countries, is called affirmative action is one of the ways to address their problems but this is not a panacea for all the ills prevalent. Dalits do not have agricultural land or other resources for sustenance. It is worrisome that in such a small state like Himachal Pradesh, violent casteist incidents against dalits are on the rise.

Rakesh Singha mentioned about the Jindan murder case in Sirmour district of the state and described that this was not just an isolated case but several such attacks have happened over a period of time. In all, 117 participants from seven districts of the state participated in the convention.

A few instances of oppression of dalits in Himachal Pradesh where 25 per cent  of its population consists of dalits:

On September 7, 2018,Kedar Jindan an RTI activist and lawyer from Shillai Tehsil of Sirmaur district was brutally beaten and then hit and run by avehicle and killed because he had raised his voice against the corrupt of the area and was bringing to light the discrepancies in BPL schemes and other works being undertaken by the panchayats. In spite of efforts to cover up the brutal incident, an FIR was lodged and his body was taken to IGMC Shimla for post-mortem due to the efforts of the other activists of democratic organisations of the region. The people protested and demanded the state government to give appropriate compensation to the victim’s family and order a due probe. When the state government didn’t pay any heed, his dead body was taken to the Ridge under the leadership of Rakesh Singha and a protest was held which continued till midnight, after which the government announced a compensation of Rs 20 lakh, free education to both his daughters, and a job to one family member of the deceased. A sum of Rs 8.5 lakh was given on the spot but the rest of the compensation amount has not been given as promised after the cremation. Following this, the Jindan family is under constant threat of violence from the Rajputs and anti-dalit violence can be anticipated at any time.

In Chopal sub division under Shimla district, a youth Rajat was brutally beaten and killed because he didn’t allow the car of upper caste men to overtake his car on the road. They made casteist remarks and abuses while beating him. This happened despite the fact that his mother Satyadevi is a BJP Mahila Morcha leader in the area.

In the Jamna panchayat of district Shilai, a Rajput girl Priyanka had married a dalit boy. The Rajput men have ousted the family from the village; have imposed a fine of one lakh rupees on them. They are being socially boycotted, no shopkeeper can sell them anything, and no vehicle owner is allowing them to board their vehicle, fearing persecution by the Rajputs.