On May 24, Sant Niranjan Dass Ji, Head of D era Sach Khand Ballan (Jalandhar), his successor Sant Rama Nand and their followers were attacked by some Manuwadi elements in Shri Guru Ravidass Temple at Vienna City of Austria. Dera Head Sant Niranjan Dass was injured, his successor Sant Rama Nand was martyred and many followers were severely injured in the firing. As a reaction Dalits made a ravished show of their anger through violent demonstrations in Jalandhar, Phagwara, Hoshiarpur, Phillaur, Muktsar, Malot, Ludhiana, Amritsar cities of Punjab, Ambala, Yamunanagar, Jagadhari, Kurukshetar, Ladwa and Shahbad of Haryana and Jasur and Nurpur Cities of Himachal Pradesh.
This anger of Dalits which burst out on Vienna Happening is not emotional extremism of one caste or sect but is a 'Class War' by socially, religiously, politically and economically backward people to prove their existence, ability and power against the age old established superiority of upper castes. Though its immediate cause is religious but there is a need to keep traditional religious beliefs aside in order to properly understand these new demarcations happening in the social structure of Punjab. Chief Architect of Indian Constitution Dr. Ambedkar said, "You remain our masters, it may be beneficial for you but what benefit we have in remaining your slaves". That's the feeling working behind the anger of Dalits. To ignore it would be to ignore the naked live electric wire. That's why the present scenario demands for a deep and thorough analysis and research in this field.
Neither there is any role of any political party behind the anger of dalits nor is it something like seasonal mushrooms after rains. The lack of democratic human values is the major aspect of this whole matter. The bonds of dalit youth with its established leadership are rapidly dissolving. The reactions on Talhan, Khairlanji, Gohana and Vienna episodes have clearly proved that leadership is moving in the hands of youth. These happenings have also proved that the educated dalits and writers who are clear in their thought and vision are no more ready to be satisfied with mere promises.
Historical role played by Dera Ballan
As far as Dera Sach Khand Ballan is concerned, the majority of its followers are dalits because the Dera preaches the mission and philosophy of Guru Ravidass. Sant Niranjan Dass is Head of the Dera. This Dera is in Doaba Region which accounts for about 50% of total Dalit Population in Punjab. 80 % out of them are Ad-Dharmi. This Dera has lakhs of devotees. Many Indian emigrants are also attached with Dera, who have helped in construction of Shir Guru Ravidass Temples in England, America, Canada and many other European nations. Apart from Punjab they have Deras in Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and some other states. The biggest Dera is in Ballan. People are attached very devotedly with this Dera.
It is pertinent to mention that the founder of Dera Sach Khand Ballan 108 Sant Sarwan Dass was born in low caste at village Gillpatti District Bathinda in Punjab. His father 108 Sant Pippal Dass left this village and come to the village Sarmastpur in Jalandhar district. Sant Sarwan Dass was put in school at Kishan Garh where he was discriminated due to his low caste status.
In the early years of twentieth century, the life of the=2 0dalits was full of sorrows and miseries. They were not allowed to enjoy the human rights. Natural law, social freedom and equality were denied to the dalits in Punjab the province of Bharat now India. Dalits were considered hereditary slaves, polluting others. They have to walk at a distance from the upper caste people.
Dalits could not drink water from a common well. Water was poured to them through a five feet parnala (pipe). Their cups were separate in caffe house and they had to clean themselves. For education schools were closed for them. They were living as a "Rijat" and were given an ignorable place in the society.
In these circumstances Sant Sarwan Dass Dera Sach Khand Ballan (Jalandhar) Punjab not only revolted against social evils but also challenged the supremacy and hegemony of the brahamins. Countering the brahaminism, first he established his own Dera at Ballan, opened a pathshal a (school) for the low caste people and started teaching them, even against the will of the upper caste people.
Sant Sarwan Dass started a langar (common kitchen) in pangat (equal line) in his dera for all caste, creed and religions for establishing a casteless and classless society. Then upper caste people objected and demanded a separate system. Swami Sarwan Dass asked them to go any where, no body would be allowed to practice a discrimination in his dera (Begampura) which is a symble of equality, liberty, fraternity and justice for all mankind.
Dera has opened various charity hospitals, schools, colleges and service centers at different places. Dera is running 200 Bed Sant Sarwan Dass Charitable Hospital at Kathar (Hoshiarpur Road), Eye Hospital at Ballan and Sant Sarwan Dass Memorial School at Hadiabad, Phagwara. Dera also publishes a weekly paper 'Begumpura Shehar'in three languages Punjabi, Hindi and English. The Chief Editor of this weekly was Sant Rama Nand. That's why the anger of dalits after Vienna firing episode is very natural.
These happenings in Punjab no doubt occurred after the Vienna episode but there are Talhan, Khairlanji and Gohana happenings before it. There is a comprehensive history behind all these happenings which can be understood only as a chain of unending injustice, discrimination and unbearable exploitation in social, religious, political and economic fields. Dalits are undergoing animal existence even after 63 years of independence. The landlords not only make them to work hard like animals but also exploit their mothers and sisters. Any refusal from this slavery and forced labour results in punishment not to a single dalit only but to whole dalit community by socially boycotting them. As a result anger arouses in dalits which sometimes burst out like a volcano. Apart from Vienna Happenings, the following causes are also responsible for the anger of dalits.
Dalits comprises half of total population in Punjab. According to Chairman of Delimitation Commission, Justice Kulde ep Singh 40% (S.C 32% + Rai Sikhs 6% + Converted Christians 2% + Buddhist- 44724) of the total population of Punjab is only of Scheduled Castes. According to a report on survey conducted with the help of Economics Department of Punjabi University, 81% of Dalit population lives in Villages and 19% in Cities. Out of them 41.9% people know reading-writing and rest 59.1% are totally illiterate. These Dalits own only 2.34% of total irrigated land. They have per capita annual income of Rs. 3277 which comes out to be Rs. 273 per month. In the houses of 90% of the village labourers no one is educated upto 10th Class. Only 2.44% of agricultural labourers have facility of a Motor Cycle or Scooter. Only 5% families have concrete houses. Rest of labourers spend their lives in clay built or semi concreted houses. Their inhabitation is out of the villages, separate from upper castes. Normally their houses are near cremation grounds or burials. That's why the living standard of these hard-working people is very low.
Whichever Government Rules, Dalits are Always on the Edge
Central Government waived the loans of farmers worth Rs. 60 thousand crores. It benefited 4 crore farmers having land up to 5 acres. 3 Lakh farmers in Punjab got benefit of 2 thousand crores. Congress Government lowered the prices of Auto Cars but poor dalits remained yearning for some relief. There is nothing in budget for poors, whereas according to Planning Commission, every state is to fix and provide an amount as per the population of dalits in the state for Scheduled Castes Special Component Plan out of Annual Growth Plan. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh selected 4 Central Ministers in the present cabinet from Punjab but did not select anyone as Minister from 40% dalit population of Punjab. Dalits are full of anger out of this injustice, caprice and whip.
In State Assembly Elections in February 2007 Akali Dal had promised on the title page of their election manifesto that 400 units of electricity per bill would be given unconditionally free to every Dalit (Scheduled Caste and Backward Class) family. But now by putting the condition of monthly income of 2 thousand rupees and 1 kilowatt meters, about 95% dalits have been devoid of this benefit. On other hand landlords having land worth crores of rupees have no condition on free supply of electricity and water. The story does not end here, last year Akali Government spend merely 125 crores for half population (i.e. Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes) and for free supply of electricity and water to landlords, it spend 2470 crores and 1680 crores respectively. Why dalits should not be angry.
Poor had been promised that flour and beans will be provided to them at rate of Rs. 4 and 20 per kg respectively. But after winning elections 75% dalits were thrown on margins and devoid of benefits. Only 10% of deserving dalits are getting the benefit. The farmers having land up to 3 acres are also getting benefit of this scheme, whereas if some dalit has gone to country like Dubai by taking loan etc. he is devoid of the benefit of this scheme.
Chief Minister S. Badal has made about 20 promises like providing scholarships to dalit children, houses and toilets for dalits, job to one member of family and establishing Dalit Development Board on page 8-11 of his election manifesto. But whatever declarations have been made till now, are favouring the landlords, aristocrats and businessmen. Even if any declarations for dalits are made, the conditions imposed on them have devoid dlaits of enriching any benefits out of them. Why Dalits should not be angry.
In Assembly Elections of February 2007, total 46 M.L.As from Akali Dal won, out of which 22 were Jats. Out of these 22, 10 are cabinet ministers and one is speaker in the assembly. Whereas on ticket of Akali Dal and BJP 15 Dalit M.L.As also won, out of which S. Gulzar Singh Ranike and Chaudhary Swarna Ram are only two ministers. All the profitable Departments like Electricity, N.R.I, Home, Justice, Vigilance, Hous ing and Urban Development, Employment, Legal and Constitutional Matters, P.W.D, Agriculture, Education, Revenue, Finance, Water Supply, Information, Irrigation and Food Supply have been given to non dalits. Dalits have been given the charge of Social Welfare and Animal Husbandry. This is also a cause for annoyance of Dalits.
All profitable Chairmanships like PUDA, GMANDA, Rural Development Board, Basic Structure Development Board, Planning Board, Health System Corporation, Agro, Tube well Corporation, Land Development Board, Science and Technology, P.R.T.C. Corporations are will the upper castes. Dalits have been given only 2-3 chairmanships. The Chief Secretaries, Advocate General, Finance Commissioner, Transport Commissioner, Commissioners of important posts like P.W.D., Rural Development, Health, Home, Personal, Water Supply all are upper castes and Dalit officials have been dragged on the margins. Even after having 40% population of dalits, in 20 districts of Punjab only 1-2 S.S.Ps and D.Cs are Dalits.
Akali Government appointed upper caste people in 12 District Planning Boards as chairmen and Vice-Chairmen. Only 1-2 Vice Chairmen are Dalits. Out of Mayors of 5 Muncipal Corporations in Punjab in Jalandhar, Amritsar, Ludhiana, Patiala and Bathinda, not even a single is Dalit. No Vice Chancellor in 8 Universities situated in Punjab is Dalit. This also is a cause of Dalits' anguish.
Janjua Report which was detrimental to the interests of dalits was implemented for the first time in whole country by Akali BJP Government but the 85th Constitutional Amendment which safeguarded the interests of destitute dalits was not being implemented, because of which the dalits servicemen were full of anger.
If any farmer commits suicide, his family is compensated with 2 Lakh rupees and government job to one member of family. If some dalit dies or commits suicide due to poverty, unemployment, starvation or burden of debt, there is no compensation for him. A landlord having any quantity of land may use as much electricity and water as he wishes without paying any bill but the charges of electricity and water for others have been raised. Why dalits should not be angry?
If farmer suffers loss of produce due to any natural calamity like floods, rains, hailstorms etc. he is compensated at least Rs. 50,000 per acres. If any dalit suffers loss of house, death of poultry or pet, loss of work for 10-15 days out of any such natural calamity, there is no way out for them except to suffer slavery, exploitation and starvation.
Central Government is not implementing the Component Scheme meant for the benefit of dalits. Central Government's Narega Guarantee Employment Scheme for 100 days is deliberately not20being implemented properly. Inflation keeps on rising every year but wages of dalit labourers are not increased. That's why dalit labourers are full of anger.
14 States have established Labour Welfare Boards on the directions of Central Government. Haryana Government has collected 100 crore rupees of the welfare of labourers but Akali BJP has deliberately not established Labour Welfare Board. A Youth Development Board, two for businessmen and four for industrialists have been made, their chairmen have been given the posts of ministers. But no Dalit Development Board has been established for 40% Dalit population even after making a promise for the same in the elections. Dalits are in anger out of this reason.
Government is spending 3000 crore rupees for the construction of twenty five storied air-conditioned hotels but has reserved only 5 crores for the construction of houses for dalits and that too is pending. No land has been granted to dalits for wastage but the places already used by them for the same are being encroached upon.
The prize money for Shiromani Award for literature has been increased to Rs. 5 Lakhs. This is good but all these awards are always given to the upper caste's so called literary figures. Dalits like Gurdas Ram Alam, Sant Ram Udasi and Lal Singh Dil are ignored and depressed. For this reason the anger in Dalit writers is also on its extreme.
Congress Government failed to establish Guru Ravidass University. It is painful that the government officials are discarding and segregating the name of chief architect of Indian Constitution Dr. B. R. Ambedkar from the 'Baba Sahib Dr. Ambedkar Technical University' which was established through an enactment by Punjab Legislative Assembly on 24th December 1996.
The Central Government Report has cleared the stand of these political parties which boast for their work for the welfare of Dalits. Punjab according to report has 29th position in the welfare of dalits. Punjab which was once amongst front liners for the welfare of dalits has now become last runner. According to this report the objectives which were fixed for dalits have not been achieved.
Present Situation of Dalits in Punjab
On taking the charge at helm of affairs, the Punjab Chief Minister, S. Parkash Singh Badal while addressing 54th session of N.D.C in the Vigyan Bhawan demanded for summoning a special session of National Development Council for finding out an answer to the problems of Scheduled Castes, Backward Classes and Other weaker sections of the society. He said that though nation has achieved 9% of growth rate, but its benefit is not reaching to the poor at the ground level. The one-third population of country is leading life below poverty line and survives on Rs. 20 per day. The planning of development should aim at reducing the differences and variance among the states, urban and rural people. There should be overall development of whole the country taking all the country together.
According to a report of Punjabi University about 70% Dalit Labourers are under the burden of loans. Out of them 70% have taken loans from landlords and 25% from petty shopkeepers in the villages. In majority of cases loans vary form one thousand to twenty thousands rupees. To discharge the burden of these loans is not getting possible for these dalits and they are continuously being pressed and exploited by the money lender, particularly big landlords.
Age old flowing tears if not wiped becomes acid. Acid when falls burns everything. Any kind of starvation is bad. The appetite of stomach is worst. But the appetite of mind is dangerous. The appetite of stomach produces heat. Any meal eaten absorbs this heat. But when appetite of stomach is not satisfied, its heat enters the mind. When it once enters mind, no meal can satisfy it. Then it exaggerates to its extreme and takes everything in its ambit. Talhan, Gohana, Khairlanji and Vienna episodes are results of extremism of this heat.
When Volcano erupts even the mountains shatters and there is no limit to its anger. If the anger of dalits busted again no system or power will be capable of stopping and controlling it. This country, society, Government and World at large should take notice of the misery and plight of dalits. Pride and prestige of dalits should no more be challenged and tested. The seeds of revolution are inflaming in their hearts. Presently it is being given the form of words and therefore literature- Dalit Literature is emerging as a result of it. It it will be ignored any more, then this volcano would erupt not words but iron and the only result will be Revolution! Revolution!! Revolution!!!
Suffering Dalit Society has four kinds of reactions against the exploitation and cruelty-
1. To silently endure this exploitation and cruelty and consider it their destiny.
2. To avoid it by moving from village to urban slums.
3. To commit suicides to avoid this.
4. People having self respect take to armed struggle.
Government tries to crush them forcefully. It results in violence.=2 0They also answer this force through violence. But violence is not an answer to any problem. Government should solve the problems of dalit society after understanding them well. Otherwise the Talhan, Gohana, Khairlanji and Vienna Episodes will continue to happen. Many Phoolan Devis and Veerapans will keep on taking birth in dalits. That's why the proper notice should be taken of the sorrows, exploitation and needs of Dalits.
Suggestions for the State
For Elimnating the Caste System following steps will be taken seriously:
1. A vast number of SCs & STs population are still ignorant of the policies of the Government, legal provisions and development schemes intended for their benefit. As a result, they do not know how to fight for their rights as they remain ignorant. A concerted effort will have to be made to educate them in this direction.
2. A separate Independent Ministry of rehabilitation for the Dalits and Tribes must be urgently constituted to devote its energy exlusively to economic empowerment, to full implementation of reservation policy in the central and state government agencies as well as the private sector.
3. To nationalize the land like nationalizing the banks. This will ensure that the Dalits will have land as a source of livelihood. In addition, the Dalits must be given physical possession of the land.
4. Small scale industrial development for Dalits, the banks to give low interest rate loans and many other human resource program. especially in the field of education and high technology.
5. Child Labour and Bonded Labour to be abolished in practice immediately by a presidential order.
6. =2 0Commission for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes should be given high court judicial powers to function as a monitoring and implementing body with non-political head functioning as per the constitutional provisions with annual reports and implementation time frames. Fill all class backlogs within the next 2 years.
7. Reservation in Judiciary to the High Court and Supreme Court levels as per constitutional quota of 22.5%. Effective immediately and to be filled within a two year period.
8. Since the Govt. of India started a new economic reports in 1990 both in employment and poverty levels have increased but the number of dalits employees decreased. In the private sector, Dalits are the last to be hired and the first to be fired. This is because of the deep caste prudice against the dalits. So the resrervation in private sector in proportion to population according to constitutional provisions should be provided immediately.
Even the negative impact of the Indian government's new economic reform policy on the Dalits. the National Commission for Scheduled castes and Scheduled Tribes Chanirman, Dr. H. Hanumanthappa, urged the government to extend job reservations to joint and private sector companies, Loans, special permits, tax relief or any other dealings with the government.
9. Landless be made self-sustaining through micro-financing for their independence from economic and social slavery with five years.
10. Compulsory free education up to the age of 14. This is a constitutional obligation. Effective immediately and to be fully operational.
11. National Finance Corporation for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes has to provide adequate funding for economic independence of the Dalits simplify the procedure and direct state governments for utilisation per year.
12. Social welfare ministry should also take legal action against those who are violating the laws concernin g land reform, reservation, banking, etc. This ministry should also coordinate work with other ministries in its weightage.
13. 25 percent of the central and state budget must be fixed to Dalit upliftment.
14. Encourage the intercaste marriages and a law be made that who did intercaste marriage, will be honoured with a Govt. Job and accomodation.
15. 26th January be declared as DR. Ambedkar's Constitution Day.
Here I want to remind all of you the famous words of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, chairman of the constitutional Drafting Committee. He said:
"On 26th January 1950, we are going to enter into a life of contradictions. In polit ics we will have equality and in social and economic life we will have inequality. In politics we will be recognized by the principle of one man, one vote and one value. In our social and economic life, we shall, by reason of our social and economic structure, continue to be denied the principle of one man, one value. How long shall we continue to lead this life of contradiction ? How long shall we continue to deny equality in our social and economic life ? if we continue to deny it for long , we will do so only by putting our political democracy in peril. We must remove this contradiction at the earliest possible moment or else those who suffer for inequality will blow up the structure of political democracy which this assembly has so laboriously built up."
S. L. Virdi
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