B R P BHASKAR
The fate of a set of proposals sent to the Kerala government by the State Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Commission illustrates how the political establishment scuttles efforts to address the problems of the weaker sections.
The commission, headed by PK Sivanandan, a former IAS officer, received on Oct.6 a complaint from VV Selvaraj, chairman of Dalit Human Rights Movement, alleging police atrocities against the organisation's supporters in Varkala. It also received a petition signed by 536 Dalit women containing the same allegation.
The commission forwarded the complaints to the Chief Secretary, the Director General of Police and the Secretaries to the Home and Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Welfare departments. It received no response from any of them.
Varkala was the scene of a dastardly murder on Sept.23. The victim was a person named Sivaprasad with no known affiliation. Within hours of the murder, the police said DHRM members had killed him to proclaim the organisation's strength.
Police swooped on Dalit colonies and arrested many DHRM workers. However, it has still not filed a charge-sheet in the murder case.
On Oct.21, the commission visited Varkala and gathered evidence directly from all concerned. It went to the Dalit colonies and spoke to both supporters and opponents of DHRM. It found the police version of events suspect and the testimony of DHRM supporters credible.
In the report, approved on Oct.29, the commission specially drew attention to the evidence of two women. One of them was a pregnant woman, who said police had taken her in a jeep and abandoned her on the roadside. The other was the mother of Das, DHRM organising secretary. She said the deputy superintended of police (DySP), Attingal, had taken her son to the police station and tortured him after a magistrate had remanded him to judicial custody.
The commission referred to the high-handed action of the circle inspector in locking the house of an arrested person and walking away with the key, denying his mother and sister access to their dwelling.
The key was returned to the family a day before the commission's visit after the chairman took up the case with the superintendent of police.
During the visit to the Thoduve colony, noting the prevailing tension, the commission's chairman directed the police superintendent to set up a picket there to prevent anti-social elements from taking advantage of the situation.
The report pointed out that if the police had taken adequate security measures, the clash on Oct.27 in which several women were injured could have been averted.
To put an end to the continuing strife, the commission suggested a visit to the colony by a high-powered government team, preferably under the leadership of the Chief Minister. It also proposed the formation of a committee comprising officials and elected representatives at the local level to maintain constant vigil.
The commission asked the government to order an impartial inquiry into the charges against the police, keeping the DySP and the Circle Inspector and Sub-Inspector of Varkala away.
The commission noted that many residents of Thoduve were living in tenements put up on government land. It proposed that they be given preferential treatment under the EMS housing scheme and rehabilitated.
Seven weeks have passed since the report was sent to AK Balan, Minister for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Welfare, with copies to the Chief Minister, the Home Minister and a host of officials. So far there has been no action on the basis of its recommendations.
Inquiries have revealed that Balan, who is himself a Dalit, turned down the proposal for a visit to Thoduve by a team headed by the chief minister, saying it was impractical. He termed the proposal for rehabilitation of the colony residents also as impractical. He effectively killed the proposal for an impartial inquiry into the police conduct by referred it to the DGP.
The government's inaction reflects the ruling establishment's callous attitude towards the problems of the Dalits, who have been victims of discrimination for centuries. Since DHRM has been propagating the view that all established parties have betrayed the Dalits, it has invited the enmity of the entire political spectrum.
A campaign waged by DHRM has weaned away a large number of Dalits away from liquor and drugs. It has endeared the organisation to Dalit women but earned it the wrath of the drug mafia and those in its pay.--Gulf Today, Sharjah, December 14, 2009