Close on the heels of releasing his book in Gujarati, "Bhed Bharat", which lists 319 cases of atrocities against Dalits and Adivasis across the country over the last five years, well-known Gujarat Dalit rights leader Martin Macwan has shot an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, telling him the reasons why he does not want vote for the BJP.
Giving graphic instances from the book, whose English edition was released on Friday, in order to give examples of how atrocities against Dalits and Adivasis have allegedly spiralled during the Modi rule, Macwan tells Modi, "It is a shame for the nation that your party has been intimidating common people and you are consciously silent."
The book seeks to answer the question as to why talk of atrocities when India is facing "serious problems post massacre of 40 security men by terrorists in Pulwama." According to Macwan, "It is not enough to merely condemn the attack at Pulwama", recalling a similar terrorist attack which took place in June 2016, in which eight jawans were killed in Kashmir.
While seven martyrs were laid to rest with full honours, Macwan says, one of them, Virsingh, "was not buried in the common village burial ground of his village simply because he was a Dalit." Wondering "why do we not brand Virsingh’s villagers ‘anti-national’,", he accuses Modi of remaining "completely silent" on the action of these non-Dalits, to whom he was an ‘Untouchable’.
Citing another instance, he asks Modi, "Do you have an answer to the question raised by Daivindran, a soldier with the Indian Army, who witnessed massacre of three Dalits, including his father and scores of other Dalits recuperating in the hospital with 40 to 80 injuries on their body in his village Kanchnatham of Shivgangei district of Tamilnadu on May 28, 2018? His only crime was, he asked with anger in his eyes: ‘I protect the nation; who will protect my family?'”
Titled "Why I do not want to vote for your party", and claiming a large number of followers, Macwan kicks off the letter by saying, he has addressed Modi as ‘respected’ in accordance to "our civilized Indian culture, which respects even those who may differ ideologically", even though Modi's behaviour as Gujarat chief minister towards the then Prime Minster, Dr Manmohan Singh, "was less than dignified, embarrassing the honour of Gujaratis."
Declaring that he is writing the letter as a citizen who is "not a registered member of any political party", Macwan recalls, he had also publicly critiqued former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who had sent an all-party delegation, which included two Congress Dalit leaders, Sushil Kumar Shinde and Meira Kumar, "to protest the inclusion of caste in the agenda of UN World Conference against Racism."
Saying that he does not want to vote for BJP because he fears that "not doing this would amount to betrayal to the ideological inheritance of Lord Buddha, Mahatma Jyotiba Phule-Savitri Phule, St Kabir, Sahu Maharaj and Dr Ambedkar", adding, this open decision is based not "on the basis of pre-election propaganda marred by allurements, false promises and irrational claims", but on an evaluation of Modi "for a full five-year term."
Macwan says, though the BJP won 41 of the 84 Scheduled Caste (SC) reserved Parliamentary seats, and 26 of the 47 Scheduled Tribe (ST) seats, apart from several seats won by allies, taking the total tally to SC-ST seats to 83, the letter says, "This voluminous SC-ST gratitude was, unfortunately, rewarded by your government in the form of increased atrocities on them."
Referring to instances from his book “Bhed Bharat”, the letter says, not only has the Modi's utilisation of poorly allocated budgeted funds for SCs and STs has gone down, it has successively undermined post-matric scholarship for Dalits, even as failing to find enough funds for to coach to qualify for professional courses. "Is this not a systemic bias you hold against the Dalits?", it asks.
Citing how indifferent Modi's administration has become towards Dalits, Macwan says, in 1992 forest-police-revenue officials raided a tribal village Vachathi, distict Dharmapuri, Tamilnadu, to hunt for sandalwood, raping 18 women. A court convicted the accused 21 years later, "yet you did not ensure that the women were paid compensation."
The letter says, though the malnutrition rate among tribal children has remained unchanged at 55%, Modi government has enough money to "buy multi-billion-dollar fighter jets and missiles, as modern and sophisticated as the US, China or Russia", yet it does not have money to "feed tribal children to end their malnutrition." He adds, this suggests, "we are not a poor nation, but we do not have money for the poor in India."
Calling atrocities against Dalits and Adivasis "state-sponsored discrimination", the letter gives instances of starvation deaths from deprived communities -- including that of Santoshi, a tribal girls from Jharkhand, who died after she did not get food for seven days; and four-year old Shivram Manjhi from Saraguja district of Chhattisgarh, who died while migrating with his father to a town in search of a job.
Macwan tells Modi, "Your manifesto for 2019 elections, Sankalp Patra, does not mention abolition of untouchability or ending atrocities on Dalits and Adivasis." And while it does mention the need to protect sanitation workers, "It is silent on ending of manual scavenging practices."
Giving instances from the book ranging from how 63 Dalit labourers from Chhattisgarh, including children and pregnant women, were held captive in a brick kiln unit in Rajouri District of Jammu & Kashmir, to a racket of trading minor tribal girls from Chhattisgarh and Odisha in the name of supplying domestic servants in Delhi, Macwan says, these and other instances show that the poor have no place in the development map.
Pointing towards the "havoc" created by cow vigilantes assaulting Dalits, Adivasis and Muslims across the country, the letter says, "You had publicly said, 'Shoot me if you want, but don’t target my Dalit brothers', directing state governments to prepare dossier on cow vigilantes". It asks Modi, "How many dossiers have you made? How many people have you punished? One of your Ministers garlanded the cow vigilantes in public after they secured bail!"
Questioning his Swachh Bharat campaign, and Gujarat being declared as open defecation free, the letter says, "Not more than Rs 3,000 have been spent on each of these toilets in place of Rs 12,000 allocated", adding, "I have hundreds of photographs of these toilets which stand broken, dilapidated, unusable. They have no foundation. Many do not have tub or soak pit, and if they have, they are unconnected... With such toilets in their homes, people have only one option: To defecate in the open."
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New Delhi: A head constable was among four people killed and at least 50 others, including several paramilitary and Delhi Police personnel, were injured as violence spiralled over the amended citizenship law in northeast Delhi, turning it into a battlefield on Monday with frenzied protesters torching houses, shops, vehicles and a petrol pump, and hurling stones.
This is the second day of clashes in the city where US President Donald Trump arrived on Monday evening on the main leg of his India visit.
Police fired tear gas shells and also resorted to lathicharge as clashes broke out between pro and anti CAA groups at Jaffrabad, Maujpur, Chandbagh, Khureji Khas and Bhajanpura. Security personnel conducted flag marches and prohibitory orders were clamped to bring the situation under control.
However, sporadic clashes continued late into the night in Maujpur and other areas.
Ratan Lal (42), a head constable attached to the office of the ACP Gokalpuri, died after he sustained injuries during stone pelting at Gokalpuri.
Three other civilian succumbed to injuries in the clashes, a Delhi government official said, adding 50 people with injuries had come to hospital for treatment.
At least 11 police personnel, including Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), Shahdara, Amit Sharma and ACP (Gokalpuri) Anuj Kumar were injured while trying to quell the protests. Two CRPF police personnel were also injured, sources said.
Government sources said the violence in the national capital appears to have been "orchestrated" by some for publicity as it comes at a time when Trump is visiting the country. They said Delhi Police Commissioner Amulya Patnaik was stationed at the police control room and closely monitoring the situation.
Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla told reporters the situation in the national capital was fully under control and sufficient forces were deployed on the ground. Officials said at least eight companies (100 personnel each) of central armed police were present on the ground, besides the Delhi Police.
However, Delhi minister and Babarpur MLA Gopal Rai tweeted that rioting was continuing at night in his constituency.
"There is an atmosphere of terror in Babarpur, rioters are roaming and setting fire but there is no police force. I am calling the police commissioner Amulya Patnaik but he is not receiving his call. I urge Delhi LG and Home Minister to immediately deploy police force," Sisodia tweeted at around 10 pm.
Delhi government ordered closure of all private and government schools in Northeast Delhi district will remain closed on Tuesday in the wake of the violence.
The violence-affected areas witnessed several rounds of stone-pelting from pro and anti-CAA protestors. The roads were strewn with bricks, stones and glass shards.
In Maujpur, pro and anti-CAA protesters indulged in stone pelting and at least three vehicles were torched. Even closed shops were vandalised. At least one house was set on fire and plumes of smoke bellowed from the balcony.
A protestor fired multiple rounds in air as a policeman was seen trying to stop him. The man is yet to be identified.
Pro-CAA protestors were also seen gheraoing and assaulting a man at Maujpur. Blood was oozing from his head, while some of the attackers raised provocative slogans.
A petrol pump and two school buses were torched at Bhajanpura-Yamuna Vihar border during the rampage by the protestors.
Police chased and hit at least four young men with batons near a footbridge on one side of the road, where dozens of personnel were deployed in anti-riot gear, a PTI reporter witnessed.
At least half a dozen youths were also picked up in a truck by the police.
Another identified man was chased down and assaulted as he ran to escape the mob on an intersection under the Gokulpuri flyover at around 6.30 pm.
Police have imposed section 144 of the CrPC, which prohibits assembly of four or more people, in areas affected by violence in northeast Delhi.
Vehicular traffic remained restricted on road number 59, which leads to Bhajanpura on one side and Ghaziabad via Gokulpuri flyover on the other side, causing inconvenience to commuters and locals, including students.
At Gokalpuri, protestors resorted to stone pelting in which Head Constable Ratan Lal was killed.
At Bhajanpura Chowk, a fire tender was damaged by the protesters after it responded to an emergency call in the area.
There were many who were caught in the crossfire.
"I don't know how are we going to go back home now," a woman hawker, standing along with a fellow hawker at C Block Yamuna Vihar bus stand, wondered as they waited for a DTC bus.
A 20-year-old man carrying a helmet said he had to leave his motorcycle in Gokulpuri as he tried to make his way to Mustafabad but was stuck at barricades put by the police.
"My sister works there and she is calling me repeatedly, asking me to come and take her home in this situation. I am unable to find a way to reach her," the man, visibly worried,
A family from Aligarh district in Uttar Pradesh which had come to Rohini for a member's treatment was also left stranded.
"Five of us, including two women, had come here in the morning. Rest four are still at the hospital in Rohini and I had come here for some work. Now I am waiting for the violence to end so that I can go pick them up and we all can return home," a man, who identified himself as Abhishek Thakur, said as he sat on a pavement with his hatchback parked near Dayalpur police station.
Violence had occurred on Sunday also over the amended citizenship law near Jaffrabad over blocking of the road by anti-CAA protesters , while similar sit-ins were launched in several other parts of the national capital including Hauz Rani.
The situation had escalated after BJP leader Kapil Mishra called a gathering on Sunday. Mishra demanded that police remove the anti-CAA protestors within three days.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal urged the Centre to restore law and order in the national capital. Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal said he has instructed Delhi Police Commissioner Amulya Patnaik to ensure the situation is brought under control.
"Very distressing news regarding disturbance of peace and harmony in parts of Delhi coming in. I sincerely urge Hon'ble LG n Hon'ble Union Home Minister to restore law and order n ensure that peace and harmony is maintained. Nobody should be allowed to orchestrate flagrations (sic)," Kejriwal tweeted.
In a tweet, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said all internal exams scheduled for Tuesday in schools in northeast Delhi will not be held and he will speak to Union HRD Minister R P Nishank on the issue of postponing the Board exam in this district.
Taking to Twitter, Baijal said, "Instructed @DelhiPolice and @CPDelhi to ensure that law and order is maintained in North East Delhi. The situation is being closely monitored. I urge everyone to exercise restraint for maintenance of peace and harmony."
Congress president Sonia Gandhi appealed to the people of Delhi to maintain communal harmony and defeat "ill-intentioned" forces that seek to divide the country on the basis of religion.
Expressing deep condolences over the death of head constable Rattan Lal, Gandhi also expressed solidarity with his family.
"There can be no space for violence in the land of Mahatma Gandhi, nor can there be any place in the country for forces that seek to impose their communal and divisive ideology on the people," the Congress leader said in a statement.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi condemned the violence in Delhi and urged people to show restraint, compassion and understanding irrespective of the provocation.
He said peaceful protests are a sign of a healthy democracy, but violence can never be justified.
"The violence today in Delhi is disturbing and must be unequivocally condemned. Peaceful protests are a sign of a healthy democracy, but violence can never be justified. I urge the citizens of Delhi to show restraint, compassion and understanding no matter what the provocation," Gandhi tweeted.
BJP spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi said the death of a Delhi Police head constable was a "ploy" to embarrass India during Trump's visit and likened it to the massacre of Sikhs in Chattisinghpura in 2000 during the then US president Bill Clinton's trip to the country.
"Shocked to hear the death of HC Sh Ratanlal in a brutal & barbaric manner. This reminds me of massacre of Sikhs in Chattisinghpura during Clinton's visit. Incidents change but anti India forces remain the same. Ploy to embarrass India, Request all to remain calm & maintain peace," she said in a tweet.
The Delhi Metro has closed entry and exit at the Jaffrabad, Maujpur-Babarpur, Shiv Vihar, Gokulpuri, Johri Enclave stations as violence prevailed in the area. The entry and exit of Central Secretariat, Patel Chowk and Udyog Bhawan were shut for nearly an hour.