TIMES NEWS NETWORK [ TUESDAY, OCTOBER 29, 2002 12:19:32 AM ]
AHMEDABAD: Nearly a thousand Dalits in Ahmedabad embraced Buddhism on Sunday, in the presence of monks from Asian countries. Followers of Babasaheb Ambedkar chanted "Budham Sharanam Gachchhami, Sangham Sharanam Gachchhami, Dhammam Sharanam Gachchhami" during the ceremony.
A delegation of 20 monks and nuns from Bodh Gaya, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam initiated them into the religion. "We are giving back to India what it gave us — this is a religion for the whole world," observed Bhante Dhammadhari from Thailand.
He, however, said that Buddhist "conversions" were different from those in other religions. "One does not have to give up one's faith. However, in order to lead a purer life, one could imbibe something from Buddhism which stands for friendship, love and peace.We don't ever convert to hurt anyone."
Bhante Mahanama from Bodh Gaya, who is a teacher of Therevada sect of Buddhism, presided over the ceremony." We were here for two days and visited the Akshardham temple to offer our prayers in the memory of those who died there," the senior monk said.
He claimed that in all, over 1,000 persons, mainly Dalits, embraced Buddhism during their three-day tour. When asked as to how did they convince people to change their religion, he said, "We did not ask them to accept Buddhism. They had interest in Buddhism and they wanted to get converted. So we gave them ‘diksha'. It was Ambedkar who had shown them the way."
Ahmedabad-based Bhante Harshabodhi co-ordinated the programme that has been dubbed as the biggest ever conversion programme in the city.
Monday, October 28, 2002 (Jhajjar):
When Rajpal, a Dalit youth, eloped with Sushila, a Jat girl from Talaav village in July, it unleashed the fury of a mob that wanted to 'avenge' the 'insult'.
Rajpal's family had to flee the village and his house lies vandalized - a bitter reminder of the criminal collective rage.
Three months have elapsed, but no one from Rajpal's family has been able to return.
Upper caste wrath
Two educated Dalit youth, who spoke out against the terror tactics used against their community, were publicly humiliated in the village.
One of them, Sundar, who works in the local court at Jhajjar, said that after the elopement, Dalits in his village were targeted by the majority Jat community.
"Only people from the Scheduled Caste category were rounded up by the police. The message that went out was that all those who belonged to the Chamar caste had a hand in the elopement," said Sundar.
Sundar went to the police and the press with an application signed by 12 Dalits, alleging that they faced threats to their life from the Jats in the village.
One of the applicants was Poonam, a common friend of the lovers who eloped, and therefore a particularly vulnerable target. She allegedly committed suicide.
"I wasn't there. I had gone to cut grass, so I don't know whether the Jats scared her. But she must have got scared because the police would come daily and question her," said Poonam's mother-in-law.
Yet the police took no notice of either the application or the circumstances leading to her death. More deaths followed with the return of the lovers.
While the Dalit boy, Rajpal, was arrested, the Jat girl, Sushila died after returning to her parental home. Her sister also died under mysterious circumstances.
Another Dalit, Hari Singh, also allegedly committed suicide.
Behind the trail of death and destruction, there were signs that the Jats were meting out their own version of justice.
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, October 28 While the Haryana Government has been discomforted by the conversion of Dalit families to Buddhism, Christianity and Islam at a function at Gurgaon yesterday organised by the All-India Confederation of SC/ST Organisations, the state government is likely to face another bout of embarrassment when the next programme of the confederation gets under way.
According to Mr Karamvir Singh, President of the confederation’s Haryana unit, functions to convert Dalits into Buddhists would be organised at the block and district levels in the entire state on the day of Divali (November 4). Mr Karamvir Singh, who had himself converted to Buddhism almost a year ago, said the massacre of five Dalit men at Jhajjar district recently had once again shown that the caste Hindus did not consider the Dalits as a part of the Hindu fold. “Therefore, we are trying to appeal to the Dalits to abandon the practice of Hindu faith and embrace Buddhism”, he said.
Yesterday, the families of four of the five Dalit men, who lost their lives in the Jhajjar incident, embraced Buddhism. The Gurgaon function also witnessed people embracing Christianity and Islam. It was, however, learnt that while Muslim as well as Christian preachers were invited to the function at Gurgaon, the programme on November 4 would focus exclusively on converting Dalits to Buddhism. Karamvir Singh said that Buddhist monks from Dadumajra and Khurali would carry out the conversions in some areas. In other areas, members of the confederation who had already converted themselves to Buddhism would proselytize the aspirants by having them swear by the Panchsheel and 22 pratigyas, which was the formula advocated by late B R Ambedkar.
Earlier, a large number of Dalits from Haryana reportedly got converted to Buddhism at a rally organised by the Confederation in Delhi in November last year. Subsequently, another function was organised at Kurukshetra on June 9 for conversion and a good number of Dalits reportedly took to Buddhism.
Mr Karamvir Singh said they were expecting the November 4 programme to be particularly successful at Bhiwani, Fatehabad, Sonepat, Narnaul, Gurgaon, Ambala and Meham.
Gurgaon, October 28
Families of four of the five Dalits, who were lynched near Dulina village of Jhajjar district in Haryana on October 15, today denied having embraced Buddhism or any other religion in protest at a rally of the All-India Confederation of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Organisations here yesterday.
“We were Hindus. We are Hindus. We will die as Hindus,” they told reporters here. Later, they called on Deputy Commissioner Anurag Rastogi and made a similar statement. They alleged that certain organisations were taking advantage of the unfortunate incident and misleading the people. “Conversion is no solution to the atrocities”, they added. The fifth Dalit victim belonged to Karnal district.
Mr Rattan Singh, father of deceased Virender, said he and other victims’ families had no knowledge of any programme of conversion. “We had attended the rally, which was organised in protest against the killings. There was no talk of any conversion or embracing any other religion,” he added.
Similar views were expressed by Mr Budhram and Mr Ram Phal, fathers of Dayanand and Raju, the other two victims of Dulina tragedy.
Yuva Chetna Samaj Sudhar Samiti president Muko Balmiki, and Haryana Pradesh Dalit Sena president Suresh Kumar Sein, expressed similar views. UNI
Ravi S. Singh
Tribune News Service Gurgaon, October 28
The proselytisation of Dalits to Buddhism, Islam and Christianity does not seem to have gone down well with members of the Scheduled Castes, even though the popular view among them is for reforms in the Hindu religion which has “pigeon holed” them into the below-the-par category at the very bottom of the caste order.
Significantly, the conversions were claimed to be a protest against the October 15 lynching of five Dalits in Dulina in Jhajjar district by a crowd of Dasehra revellers.
The conversions were undertaken at a public meeting and at a ceremony organised by the All-India Confederation of Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe Organisations and the Lord Buddha Club headed by Mr Udit Raj. These were solomenised by religious leaders of Buddhism, Islam and Christianity.
While the confederation of the SC/ST organisations was floated in October, 1997,the Lord Buddha Club was constituted in August,1996.Incidentally, Mr Udit Raj technically still holds the post of Additional Commissioner, Income Tax. According to him, he goes on a long leave while indulging in these controversial socio-politico activities which have come under criticism, both from his peers and independent observers.
In short impromptu interviews a large number of Dalits claimed that conversion was no way to fight the obvious anomalies loaded against the Scheduled Castes in Hindu society, which was generally liberal. One will have to remain in the framework and fight against the fundamental elements from within. Mr Govardhan Sangvayya, a banker, summed up the general mood among the Dalits, saying that: “conversion was an escapist tendency. In any case it will not bring glory to the converts.”
Mr Mahender Singh Ranga, another known face among the Scheduled Castes here, lamented that conversions would further divide the Dalits and weaken their movement for bringing a just order to the Hindu religion. The Constitution, with equality, liberty and fraternity as its signature tune, is strong enough a weapon to take on any kind of injustice in the system, he added.
The general feeling outside the SCs demographic spectrum is that the Dulina incident is without doubt condemnable, but vested interests are using it as a fig leaf to goad the “undiscernable” Dalits for conversion. “Two wrongs do not make a right and such developments would push the society into further negative spiral” was the view expressed by many.
However, Kallu Ram says that the push has now become a shove. Hence, extreme measures like conversions were the only way to get out of the dark tunnel and caution the chauvanists amongst the Hindus in the process.
Government circles are reluctant to comment on the incident for reasons best known to them. On the surface the development is a backlash of the Dulina incident, alleged to be a sequel of negative and marauding sentiment in a section in the district administration and the police machinery. Although the government circles are keeping tight-lipped over the development, it is apparent there is hurt and hunger in the voice of some top officers that TNS talked to as the Dulina incident had collectively defiled their image.
However, reacting to the conversion incident the Deputy Commissioner, Gurgaon, Mr Anurag Rastogi, said religion was a matter of personal faith in a secular state. Unless someone comes and makes a specific charge of coercion the administration has no role to play.
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, October 28
The Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Backward Classes and Minority Front, Chandigarh, today asked for Dalits to boycott Divali to register their protest against the Jhajhar killings.
A resolution to this effect was unanimously passed at a rally of the front to pay homage to the killed. The front demanded that the killers be tried under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), conversion law be withdrawn to allow freedom of practice and preach one’s religion, names of communal forces protecting the killers be made public and arrested and a suitable memorial be built in the name of the those killed.
Tribune News Service
Ludhiana, October 28
The Punjab State Human Rights Commission (PHRC) has directed the ADGP with commission to inquire, within three weeks, about an alleged kidnapping and beating case of two women of Tusse village, that took place last week and the alleged police inaction on their complaint.
In an alleged land grabbing case, some persons had kidnapped and beaten up the two women, Dalip Kaur and Balwinder Kaur, in Tusse village. The accused as well as the victims were Dalits and related to each other. Both the groups were already fighting legal battles over a piece of land worth Rs 1.5 lakh. Cases had been registered against both the parties earlier also.
The Jagraon police has denied the allegation of the alleged victims’ family. It produced an FIR’s registered on their complaint. Mr Arvind Puri, SHO, Sudhar police station said the police was clean in the case and had acted according to the law and circumstantial evidence.
A copy of the PHRC orders said that Baljinder Singh of Tusse village had, in his complaint, to the PHRC, alleged that police had not acted on his complaint. The orders said the allegations were very serious and pertained to the inaction of the local police on the asking of a former MLA of the present government. The complaint was substantiated with the medico-legal reports of Dalip Kaur and Balwinder Kaur which revealed that the two had been subjected to torture. The facts mentioned in the complaint were brought to the notice of the Jagraon police but according to the complaint it did not address to the grievances of the complainant.
The orders said in the light of the serious offenses, it would be appropriate if the ADGP of the commission enquired into the matter. The ADGP had been accordingly directed to conduct this inquiry personally and could take the help of a police officer by deputing the DSP of this commission to forthwith visit the spot and to make enquiries into the allegations In this context he may also take into consideration the evidence the complainants may wish to give him. The officer would specifically give his findings as to why, if so, the FIR was not registered. He would consider taking the version of the concerned police officer also.
However, Mr Arvind Puri, SHO, Sudhar police station, said the police had taken timely action and reached the alleged crime site within minutes. He said on the complaint of the two woman and their relatives, a case was registered on October 23 under Sections 342, 506 and 148 of the IPC. He said seven out of the eight accused persons were arrested in this connection.
He said the accused party had claimed that they had been wronged and the allegations levelled by the two women were false. He said the police in an unbiased role had registered a case on their complaint also.
Luke Harding in New Delhi
Tuesday October 22, 2002
A Hindu religious leader has welcomed the murders of five men accused by a mob of killing a cow, India's most sacred animal, claiming that the life of the creature is more important than that of a human. The victims in the north Indian state of Haryana hailed from the downtrodden Dalit caste, called "untouchables".
Police claim a 4,000-strong mob, incensed by the cow skins carried in the men's truck, attacked the Dalits and killed them. Other witnesses, however, insist the police killed them because they had refused to pay a bribe. Officers then allegedly spread the word that the Dalits had killed a cow to induce a vengeful mob.
To compound suspicions of a cover-up, the officer in charge of the case carried out a postmortem late last week - on the cow. And police have yet to make any arrests.
The case touches on several themes in modern Indian society: police unaccountability; the rise of violent Hindu extremism; and the persistence of India's ancient caste system.
It also raises the question: can a cow's life be worth more than that of a human? The answer, says Giriraj Kishore, a leader of the extremist religious Hindu group, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, is yes. Respected Hindu papers such as the Indian Express called it horrific.
Ratan Singh, whose 27-year-old son was burned to death, said the families had been skinning cows for generations, that they had been working on council contracts, and that their truck would never have carried a carcass.
He said that one man was so seriously beaten that police had "to spread the story that they were killing a cow".
The men's bodies - "half-burned, their eyes gouged out", were found in hospital.
"Untouchability" survives in many Indian villages, despite laws designed to protect Dalits, and to reserve jobs for them in the civil service.
Although Dalits are at the bottom of the caste heap, some point out that the cows' lot in India is not always a happy one either - thousands die each year after ingesting plastic bags from rubbish heaps.
ALL INDIA CONCEDERATION OF SC/ST ORGANISATIONS
Udit Raj I.R.S.
Off. : 5, Pusa Road, IIIrd Floor, Karol Bagh, New Delhi-110005, Ph.- 5740016, Telefax : 5740017
Resi/corres : 478,Laxmi Bai Nagar, N.Delhi- 110023, India
Ph. : 011- 6871600 Mobile- 011-6542285, Fax- 011-6873722
E-mail : email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Website : www.voiceofbuddha.com
We never claimed number and name of converted people in protest against the Jhajjar killings but false reports forced us to invite the media for verification of truth, how some organizations and administration can claim that they have retracted.
District Administration is not for religious propaganda but for administration.
From Center to State, the Governments are in run about conversion but they did not show that much concern about Jhajjar killings.
Whatever media saw, it reported back and ask them whether they reported wrong or right.
Hindu religion is responsible for conversion.
If some people issue irresponsible statements under the pressure of Sangh Pariwar and administration, they are responsible for that.
We wanted to teach lesson to this social system, so we succeeded : udit raj
New Delhi, 29th October, 2002
Under the leadership of Mr. Udit Raj, the Gurgaon unit of All India Confederation of SC/ST Organizations and Lord Buddha Club organized a public gathering at Rabi Das Mandir, Gurgaon on 27th October, 2002 in which Dalits converted to Buddhism. We issued the press release also at that occasion which did not mention the name and number of converted people. If media would have asked details about the same and still ask, we are ready for verification on spot. The function was participated by All India Christian Council, Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind, and Film Director Mahesh Bhatt and others. The most important was presence of important media like Star News, Jain T.V., PTI, UNI, Times of India, Tribune, Rashtriya Sahara etc. and every thing happened in front of them. If anybody is interested to know the truth about the conversion, it is better to contact media persons because they are neutral. The facts can be also verified by local leaders Satya Prakash Jarawata Ph.: 91-6391306 Mobile : 9810726306, Col. B.S. Kanwalia Ph.: 91-6324128, Khem Chand Dabla and Karamvir Singh Ph.: 0172-658218, Mobile : 9814435054 and one can reach to converted people through them. So for as conversion to Islam and Christianity is concerned , it was spontaneous response of people gathered there. Before and after the conversion we only informed the media about the conversion to Buddhism.
The district administration is not suppose to interfere in personal life of an individual. It is regretted that district administration is involving in negative publicity and saying that conversion did not take place. If this could have done by VHP or other organizations, it would have been understandable. If we go by statement of Mr. Om Prakash Chautala, the Chief Minister of Haryana appeared in news paper today it seems he is under pressure of Sangh Parivar and that is why he said that the conversion is not connected to Jhajjhar killing. If it would have happened with his relatives or he would have been born in Dalit family or he would have been present at that time, we are sure that he would have not issued such irresponsible statement. In this way he has challenged the credibility of senior media persons present there.
After the conversion the so called Manuvadi organizations and leaders are issuing irresponsible statements. Have they tried to ask from VHP leaders Mr. Giriraj Kishor when he said that "Cow is more important than human life"? Have they bothered to condemn or agitate against the so called upper castes of Chakwada who did not allow Dalits to use the water of pond. The Hindu Society is already fragmented for thousands years and we are trying to repair it by propagating the religion which is devoid of discrimination and caste system and this act of our is being underplayed by so called Hindutva Organisations. The reservation is getting diluted day by day and exploitation of Dalit is the order of the day and unemployment are main factors for division in society rather conversion to Buddhism. Who are they to suggest Dalits that conversion is not solution, let this issue be decided by Dalits themselves. If the conversion of 27th October, 2002 was a drama then why Central and State Govt. are worried. If Dalits want to follow the foot step of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, then why others are anxious?
People converted to Buddhism, Islam and Christianity and media witnessed it and Times of India reported that 80 of them converted to Buddhism. For information, a senior correspondent of Times of India Mr. Akshay Mukul was present there and if the news was published on the basis of our informations then there was chance to blame us for doing politics or presenting wrong facts. Whatever media persons witnessed, they reported as per their observation and experience. If anyone have doubt he can reach to them whether they have reported right or wrong. If the family member of deceased are saying something then it must be under the pressure of Sangh Parivar and District Administration. Some people may say anything under the pressure and threat. We wanted to teach lesson to the social system so we did it.
If anybody is responsible for conversion, it is Hinduism. Dalits are treated worse than animals in Hinduism and for getting dignity and respect, the conversion takes place then what is the problem of others? There are four Peeths of Shankaracharya and let each go to all four Varnas of Hinduism. In Hindu temples and religious places, untouchablity is practiced by Hindu priests against the spirit of the Constitution but so far not even one has been arrested and punished. If the champions of Hinduism want to stop conversion, first of all they should be serious debate on it.
Ratan Singh, 58, father of two of the five Dalits massacred in Jhajjar on Dussehra night had, on March 6, visited the Adarsh Goshalaya in Tikli village, Gurgaon. A goshalaya is a cattle yard where ailing or old cattle are kept under the benign care of cattle lovers.
Ratan Singh paid Rs 10,000 to the cattle shelter for which he was given a receipt. The Rs 10,000 paid to the goshalaya entitled him to the bodies of dead animals which his sons then skinned — one of the million such operations for the nation’s tanneries. On April 2, Ratan Singh also paid Rs 35,000 to the Sohna Panchayat Samiti. For this sum he obtained a licence which entitled him to skin dead cattle and sell their hides and bones.
To the extent that Ratan Singh and family functioned as scavengers for the community, coping with their responsibilities as Chamars, low down the caste order, they hurt nobody except perhaps the younger members of the family who wished to break out of the caste straitjacket. But today Ratan Singh can pay Rs 45,000 annually above the counter to obtain a legitimate right to skin dead cattle. Heaven knows how much he must pay below the counter to carry on the business because anyone in the hierarchy — from village to state level — can stop his truck for a check. The system has to be greased.
There is an irony loaded in his favour. Recent droughts have ruined the farmers, generally from the upper castes. But a high mortality rate among cattle means brisk business for a caste looked down upon as scavengers. The economic upward mobility of the low castes must create some jealousies. The caste affiliations of the upper castes with the administration, particularly the police, must be a factor in the given social balance.
A curious factor in the Jhajjar massacre is that in the earlier stages the local VHP was alleged to have taken up cudgels because of the rumour that a cow had been killed on Dussehra. The VHP would have a huge interest in the matter if the cow killers were Muslims.
The police version is that it was an agitated mob, returning from Dussehra festivities, which had lynched the five. Does this mean that the mob, which was shouting,‘Gau mata ki jai’, fell upon the five imagining them to be Muslims? But there are no Muslims in the area for this kind of mischief to yield any political mileage.
Obviously the VHP had misunderstood the situation at the outset and that misunderstanding was encouraged by someone. Who? Someone desperately keen to mobilise a mob to cover up for the gruesome murder of the five at the Dulena police chowki.
A quick look at the sequence of events to unravel this whodunnit: a Tata mini truck is loaded with skins at Farraknagar by Ratan Singh’s two sons from Badshapur, a cousin from Aklimpur, the truck driver from Tikli in Gurgaon.
The skins are for Kailash, a trader from Karnal who is also on the truck. The road to Karnal from Farraknagar passes through Jhajjar, but 10 km short of Jhajjar, is a red, square building. This is the Dulena chowki where doing duty on the evening of Dussehra — October 15 — were ASI Dharamvir and three jawans. The truck is stopped for routine checking. It is still not dark.
From here, the narratives diverge — the police version and the village version. Hoshiar Singh, constable at Dulena, insists a cow was killed by the Dalits quite near the chowki.
Tripurari Rai, assistant director of the SC-ST Commission, is questioning Narender Singh, DSP Jhajjar and City Magistrate Raj Pal: ‘Can you believe that anyone would kill or even skin a cow by the side of a busy highway?’ he asks. The police version makes no sense. Also, there is no sign of mob fury around the police chowki. Marigold plants in bloom around the building have not been trampled on. How then were the five stoned, beaten with rods in one of the rooms of the chowki where the walls have traces of blood. ‘The mob broke the lock,’ Hoshiar Singh insists.
In Badshapur the conventional wisdom is that the police demand for a bribe led to an altercation. The situation got out of control leading to the brutal murders. Ratan Singh sits on a duree outside his ample house visited by numerous people including politicians.
Haryana chief minister, Om Prakash Chautala, sent Deputy Speaker Gopichand Gehlot with a cheque of one lakh. ‘We don’t want money; we want the police to be punished,’ Ratan Singh says. Later, Sonia Gandhi came with a gift of one lakh in cash in crisp 500-rupee denominations. ‘‘I accepted it because she came with sympathy.’’ That is the beginning of the political dimension.
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