Caste Violence Against Indias Untouchables
Human Rights Watch
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Copyright © March 1999 by Human Rights Watch.
All rights reserved.
Printed in the United States of America.
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 99-61749
Cover photos by Smita Narula. © Human Rights Watch 1998.
Top photo: Survivors of a massacre in Bihar.
Bottom photo: Children of manual scavengers in Gujarat.
Cover design by Rafael Jiménez
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This report was researched and written by Smita Narula, researcher for the Asia division of Human Rights Watch. It is based on research conducted from January to March and July to August 1998. More than 300 Dalit men and women were interviewed. Interviewees were chosen on the basis of their willingness and ability to speak freely with Human Rights Watch; no interviews were conducted under circumstances that presented the risk of retaliation. Human Rights Watch also spoke with more than one hundred government officials, social workers, Dalit activists, and attorneys.
The report was edited by Patricia Gossman, senior researcher for the Asia division of Human Rights Watch, Wilder Tayler, general counsel, and Cynthia Brown, program director. Production assistance was provided by Tom Kellogg, associate for the Asia division of Human Rights Watch, Alex Frangos, associate, Human Rights Watch, and Raj Barot, intern. Scott Campbell, consultant to Human Rights Watch, assisted with the research in Bihar.
Human Rights Watch would like to thank the following people and organizations for their generous assistance: Henri Tiphagne and members of Peoples Watch, Tamil Nadu; members of Bihar Dalit Vikas Samiti, Bihar; Sudha Varghese of Nari Gunjan, Bihar; Vivek Pandit and members of Samarthan, Maharashtra; Martin Macwan and members of Navsarjan, Gujarat; Paul Divakar of Sakshi, Andhra Pradesh; Ruth Manorama of the National Federation for Dalit Women; Henry Thiagaraj of the Dalit Liberation Education Trust, Tamil Nadu; and Kathy Sreedhar of the Holdeen India Fund, Washington, D.C.
We also thank the many people who prefer, for their own well-being and that of their organizations, that their names not be mentioned an unfortunate indicator of the volatility surrounding the issue of caste conflict in India. We would like to express our gratitude to the many Dalit men, women, and children who spoke with us, recounting their personal experiences of hardship and violence. They made this report possible.
Finally, we acknowledge with appreciation the support of the Ford Foundation, which provided funding that has enabled Human Rights Watch to pursue caste and gender-related research and advocacy in India.
The recommendations for this report were drafted in consultation with over forty activists during two sets of meetings convened by Human Rights Watch in July and August 1998 in Bangalore and New Delhi, respectively. Activists and lawyers from eight states and New Delhi took part, representing prominent Dalit rights and women's rights organizations, and national civil liberties and human rights organizations. We wish to thank them for their participation and invaluable contributions.
Participants names and organizations are listed by state.
Tamil Nadu: Henri Tiphagne, C. J. Rajan, and Vincent, Peoples Watch; Henri Thiagaraj and James Antony, Dalit Liberation Education Trust; V. P. Epsibai, Tamil Nadu Dalit Womens Integration Movement; S. A. Maniraj, Tamil Nadu Womens Forum; A. Vinoth, Athi Tamilar Viduthalaiiyyakkam; P. Chandrabose, Dalit Liberation Movement. Karnataka: Ruth Manorama, National Federation of Dalit Women and Womens Voice; Aloysius SJ, Lazar SJ, John SJ, Indian Social Institute; Jyothi Raj, H. M. Amitha, Rural Education for Development Society; Sam A. Chelladurai, HAKKU; Ashwini Madhyasta, Anekal Rehabilitation, Education and Development Centre. Andhra Pradesh: N. Paul Divakar, V. Nanda Gopal, SAKSHI; Bejawada Wilson, Safai Karmachari Andolan; L. Jaya, Vedika; G. Sathyavathi, Rural Awareness and Development Society; P. Chennaiah, Andhra Pradesh Vyavasaya Vruthi Darula Union; Maharashtra: John Samuel, National Centre for Advocacy Studies; P. A. Sebastian, Indian Peoples Human Rights Commission; Orissa: R. K. Nayak, Sashmi Nayak, NISWASS; Rajasthan: P. L. Mimroth, Promila, Society of Depressed People for Social Justice; Geeta Deepika Rawatt, Sasvika; Bihar: Sudha Varghese, Nari Gunjan; Radha Mohan Singh, Bihar Dalit Vikas Samiti. Gujarat: Martin Macwan, Navsarjan; Meera Velayudhan, Institute for Environmental and Social Concerns. New Delhi: Dr. Walter Fernandes, Programme for Tribal Studies, Indian Social Institute; Dr. P. D. Mathew, Programme for Legal Aid, Indian Social Institute; Dr. Ambrose Pinto, Executive Director, Department of Research, Indian Social Institute; Dr. Sanjeeb K. Behera, Programme for Scheduled Castes, Indian Social Institute; Bhagwan Das, Dalit Solidarity, Asian Centre for Human Rights; South Asian Human Rights Documentation Centre.
I am a twenty-six-year-old Dalit agricultural laborer. I earn Rs. 20 [US$0.50] a day for a full day's work. In December 1997, the police raided my village... The superintendent of police [SP] called me a pallachi, which is a caste name for prostitute. He then opened his pant zip... At 11:00 a.m. the sub-collector came. I told the collector that the SP had opened his zip and used a vulgar word. I also told him that they had broken my silver pot. The SP was angry I had pointed him out...
The next morning the police broke all the doors and arrested all the men in the village... The SP came looking for me. My husband hid under the cot. My mother was with me at the time. I was in my night clothes. The police started calling me a prostitute and started beating me. The SP dragged me naked on the road for one hundred feet. I was four months pregnant at the time... A sixty-year-old woman asked them to stop. They beat her too and fractured her hands... They brought me to the police station naked... Fifty-three men had been arrested. One of them took off his lungi [wrap-around cloth] and gave it to me to cover myself.
I begged the police officers at the jail to help me. I even told them I was pregnant. They mocked me for making such bold statements to the police the day before. I spent twenty-five days in jail. I miscarried my baby after ten days. Nothing has happened to the officers who did this to me....
Guruswamy Guruammal, Madurai, Tamil Nadu
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I. SUMMARY 1
II. RECOMMENDATIONS 11
Recommendations to the Government of India 11
Recommendations to All State Governments 16
Recommendations Specific to Abuses Documented in this Report 18
Recommendations to the United Nations 20
Recommendations to the World Bank and Other
International Lending Institutions 21
Recommendations to Indias Donors and Trading Partners 21
III. THE CONTEXT OF CASTE VIOLENCE 23
The Caste System 24
Untouchability and Segregation 25
The Relevance of Land 27
Social Boycotts and Retaliatory Violence 29
Violence Against Dalit Women 30
The Role of the Police 32
Dalit Political Movements 33
Dalit Panthers of India 35
The Rise of the Backward Castes 37
Legal Context 39
IV. THE PATTERN OF ABUSE: RURAL VIOLENCE IN BIHAR AND THE STATES RESPONSE 42
The Context of the Conflict 44
The Naxalites 46
Caste Militias 48
Ranvir Sena 49
Confrontations over Land 51
Ranvir Sena Massacres and State Complicity 53
Shankarbigha and Narayanpur 58
Bathani Tola 71
Government Compensation Packages 72
The States Targeting of Naxalites 73
Encounter killings 73
Police raids 75
Raid in Andhrachak 77
Raid in Jhunauti 78
Extortion and looting 80
V. THE PATTERN OF ABUSE: SOUTHERN DISTRICT CLASHES
IN TAMIL NADU AND THE STATES RESPONSE 82
Context of Clashes 84
Links between Thevars and state agents 86
Economic context 87
Melavalavu Murders 89
Displacement of Dalit Villagers 99
Police Raids in the Southern Districts 102
Violence Against Dalit Women During
the Southern District Clashes 112
Violence by private actors 112
Police torture of women/custodial violence 115
Renewed Clashes 121
Tamil Nadu Government-Appointed Commissions 124
VI. THE RAMABAI KILLINGS 127
The Killings 127
National and International Standards on the Use of Firearms 134
VII. DISCRIMINATION AND EXPLOITATIVE FORMS OF LABOR 139
Bonded Labor 139
Caste and Employment Discrimination 141
Manual scavenging 141
The relationship between scavenging and debt bondage 148
Failure to implement protective legislation 149
The Devadasi System: Ritualized Prostitution 150
VIII. THE CRIMINALIZATION OF SOCIAL ACTIVISM 153
Rights of the Accused 154
D. K. Basu v. State of West Bengal 155
False Arrests During the Tamil Nadu Southern District Clashes 157
Maharashtra Case Studies 161
Other Case Studies 164
IX. ATTACKS ON DALIT WOMEN: A PATTERN OF IMPUNITY 166
Women and the Law 167
Indias constitution 167
Penal and criminal codes 168
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms
of Discrimination against Women, 1979 169
Failure to Prosecute Rape Cases 170
M. Meena 171
R. Chitra 173
Caste and Gender Bias in the Courts 175
Bhanwari Devi 176
Shri Satish Mehra v. Delhi Administration and Another 177
Suman Rani (Prem Chand and Another v. State of Haryana) 177
X. FAILURE TO MEET DOMESTIC AND INTERNATIONAL LEGAL OBLIGATIONS TO PROTECT DALITS 179
Indias Obligations under Domestic Law 179
Scheduled castes and the constitution 179
The National Commission for Scheduled Castes
and Scheduled Tribes 181
The Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 182
The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes
(Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 183
Failure to Implement the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes
(Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 187
Non-registration of cases 189
Police investigations and use of witnesses 191
Lack of special courts and special prosecutors 193
Under-reporting of Atrocities Act cases: the Gujarat experience 194
Attempts to repeal the Atrocities Act:
the Maharashtra experience 196
Indias Obligations under International Law 199
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms
of Racial Discrimination, 1965 199
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966 200
International Covenant on Economic, Social
and Cultural Rights, 1966 202
Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman,
or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, 1984 203
Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989,
and Forced Labour Convention, 1930 204
XI. CONCLUSION 205
APPENDIX A: Selected Articles of the Indian Constitution 208
APPENDIX B: The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 218
APPENDIX C: The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Rules, 1995 231
APPENDIX D: The Employment of Manual Scavengers
and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993 250
APPENDIX E: Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
Concluding Observations on Caste 265
APPENDIX F: Human Rights Committee Concluding Observations
on Caste 272
APPENDIX G: Relevant United Nations Forms and Addresses 283