Dalits to narrate tales of untouchability to president, PM
May 13, 2007 - 8:30:17 PM
New Delhi, May 13 - Stories of horror, angst and agony poured out as 60 Dalit victims of untouchability from across the country gathered at the capital to narrate their travails at the Indian People's Tribunal, a public hearing that took place over the weekend.
Whether it was about the case of a Dalit woman being paraded naked, raped and then murdered in Rajasthan or about denying access to groundwater in Andhra Pradesh or whether it was about untouchability practised in an Orissa school or 21 Dalits shot in Uttar Pradesh over a land dispute, the stories are unbelievably shocking.
Some of them have been highlighted by the media like that of Bant Singh of Punjab whose hands and legs were chopped off because he demanded that the upper caste miscreants who raped his minor daughter be punished and that of the Dalit student at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences - here who faced discrimination.
However, most were unheard.
Denied justice, these people narrated their tales to a panel, which included Rajya Sabha MP Nirmala Deshpande, Swami Agnivesh, social activists Sandeep Pandey and Harsh Mander.
After hearing out the cases May 12-13, the panel along with the victims will meet the president, the prime minister, the home minister and the National Commissions of Scheduled Castes, Women and Human Rights May 14-15.
The organisers, the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights - and the Human Rights Law Network -, the participants and the jury also plan to chalk out an action plan to work against untouchability in the country.
Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, part of the jury, said the criminal justice administration system had not ensured justice to the Dalits and promised to strengthen the various cases, which have been filed against human rights violations against Dalits.
'Untouchability is plaguing our nation for centuries. This is one issue that needs to be addressed on a priority basis to secure the rights of the Dalits and a healthy future for the fast developing India. For us and for everyone in the country, it is 'now or never',' said NCDHR national convener Paul Divakar.
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