Friday, September 03, 2010

Indian Temple Shuts Doors To Dalits, Brands Them "Untouchables"

In what is one of the ugliest practices in Indian society, temples in a village in India's Haryana state bars people of Dalit communities from entering and worship.

A local community reporter Amit Kumar, a Dalit himself reports this in a video showing how his community is forbidden to enter a temple.

In Barot village of Ludwa, Haryana, Dalits are not allowed to enter the village temples. The temples allow only the villagers who belong to upper castes to worship. Amit talks to several other youths like himself in his community who share the pain and indignity that they face every day.

The Constituion of India ensures equal rights to all citizens. These include the right to ‘opt, embrace and practice any religion”.

However, in Barot village of Ludwa the Dalits have always been denied this right. They have been treated as ‘dirty’ and asked by both the upper caste and the temple priest to keep away from the temple.

Amit says that though the older generation has accepted this denial of rights as a fate, youths in his community are angry and bitter to be treated as untouchables and being barred from having simple joys such as worshipping in a temple.

Though such discrimination violates the basic human rights and causes a lot of indignity to Dalits, no effort has been made to end this till now. In fact the govt only acts when the prejudice sparks violence and a Dalit family is physically attacked by the upper caste.

Amit who has been reporting on this discrimination since he joinedIndiaUnheard - a news service dedicated to community news, did this video to share with the viewers the humiliation that he experiences every day as a Dalit youth. He wants them to condemn this, so that people like him can live with dignity.

Defenceless Woman Branded Witch, Brutally Tortured

Despite a state law in place, poor women from marginalized communities in Jharkhand continue to be branded as ‘witches’ and tortured. Here is a video that describes the plight of Rubiya Bibi - a poor Muslim woman and a mother of 4 children from Jharkhand state of India, branded as a ‘witch’ and tortured by men of her village.

Brutally beaten, made to eat human waste, ostracized, denied work and earning opportunities, forced to live in isolation – this is the story of Rubiya Bibi, a poor Muslim woman in Jharkhand, India, branded as a ‘witch’ by men in her village.

A mother of four children – all under 10 -, Rubiya’s husband is mentally unstable and oblivious to what is happeing. Rubiya’s in-laws have supported her tormentors and driven her away from her husband’s home.

Rubiya now lives at her father’s home. Her father, a poor labourer, struggles to feed so many mouths with his meager income. Rubiya’a children can’t go to school as their mother is a ‘witch’. They can’t play with other children because everyone teases them as the ‘witch’s children.

Jharkhand was one of the first Indian states, to adopt a law against witchcraft-related cruelties and crimes against women. The law - Witchcraft Prevention Act, 2001 provides for severe punishment for those who brand/torture/kill women as ‘witches’.

Ironically, the state still continues to top the list of women branded as witches.

The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) records state that Jharkhand has witnessed deaths of 249 persons (mostly women) between 2001 and 2008 for "practising witchcraft".

The Jharkhand Criminal Investigation Department figures maintain that as many as 1,200 witches managed to survive torture and attacks between 2001 and 2009. The figures suggest that there has been a rise in the number of attacks on women accused of being a 'witch'.

While the attackers aim to kill the victim, some lucky ones manage to escape. Rubiya was also lucky to have survived. After escaping, she went to the police station of Deoghar and filed a case against her tormentors. But police refused to take action.

Mukesh Rajak, the young community correspondent of IndiaUnheardlives in Deoghar. When he met Rubiya, he was heartbroken to see the plight of the poor uneducated woman who neither any means to earn, nor is provided any help from anyone. He says, “It is only the poor and defenceless women like Rubiya Bibi who are handpicked by their rich and powerful neighbours to be declared ‘witches”.

The unjustified sufferings of Rubiya and her family that made Mukesh angry and bitter, especially the way Rubia’s children were ostracized and taunted every day. It was this anger that made him do this video report, as a documentation of witchcraft torture, despite a law against it.

Mukesh is keenly following the case filed by Ribiya Bibi. He wants people watching this video to create pressure on the police of Deogarh to act on the case, so that this woman can get justice under the existing anti-witchcraft law.

When Flowers Kills A Forest

After 69 day-long economic blockade, the economy of Manipur state in India is in trouble again. This time its from flowering of bamboo. A video produced by a local reporter from interior Manipur brings in light this phenomenon which is rare, natural and also dangerous.

The state of Manipur in north east India, is one of the largest bamboo producing states of the country. has about 3,218 sq. km area covered with bamboo forest. Production in this large forest contributes greatly to India’s Rs. 7,000 + Crore ($1.43 billion)+ bamboo industry. The local economy of Manipur also benefits a lot as bamboos are used practically for every reason – from building a house to cook a local dish. The world market for bamboo is valued at US $ 10.

The mass flowering of bamboos is known as “gregarious flowering of bamboo”. Though it isn’t harmful to humans, it causes great economic loss. This is because after the flowering and seeding, the bamboo ‘clumps' die. Secondly, rats feast on bamboo seeds and multiply their numbers. Once all the bamboo plants die, these rats then start attacking agricultural crops.

This year several districts in Manipur has witnessed bamboo flowering. A video by Achungmei Kamei, a community reporter captures this flowering phenomenon. The video, named Bamboo Bloom Spells Doom and how people of the community, normally heavily dependent on bamboo, is dealing with the aftereffects. The natural phenomenon of bamboo flowering has been recorded to have happened in 1862, 1881, 1911-12 and 1959 too. All of them resulted in severe famine.

Tamenglong, the district that Achungmei Kamei is based in, is one of the 5 hills district of Manipur. This year the district has suffered severe economic loss due to a 69 day-long economic blockade. The blockade which Achungmei earlier reported on, created shortage all basic amenities, including food items. Destruction of bamboo due to bamboo flowering is feared to add to this loss. Already the price of bamboo shoots – a part of people’s daily diet – has gone up by Rs 5

The government usually releases fund to combat the impact of bamboo flowering. In the year 2006-2007, it had allocated Rs 1 crore. But it is not yet known if the state has a plan ready to fight the bamboo flowering impact this year.

In past few years, however, the federal government has multiplied the fund allocated to Manipur. If the state is serious about helping farmers who have experienced great loss due to bamboo flowering, it can. The only prerequisite is political will.