End Caste Violence & Ensure Fair Rations In Rural Jharkhand

A 45 year old Dalit Woman who protested for her right to government subsidized grain and fuel under the Public Distribution System (PDS) was verbally assaulted with ‘caste abuses’, brutally beaten up with the butt of a gun and left for dead by the ‘upper caste’ owner of the local PDS ration shop and his family. Upon hearing the news, IndiaUnheard Community Correspondent (CC) Anil Gudia, who lived in a neighboring village called up CGNet Swara, a voice-based platform for community mobile reporting and reported the incident. (Listen to Anil’s original broadcast here)Anil’s report was picked up by online petitioning and social change website change.org that put out a petition asking the officials to take immediate action. (Read the Petition here) The officials were contacted and the issue was brought to their attention. Within a week, the three culprits were put behind bars. The license of their ration shop has been revoked. The victim, Ms. Saraswati Devi is slowly but surely recovering her health and cheer. But some of the most needy families in the village are yet to receive their rations. Our CC Anil asks you to support him by calling the Sub-District Magistrate Mr Bindeshwari at 09431138170 and request him to ensure that the Below Poverty Line (BPL) Families living in the Garpathra village of Palamu District, Jharkhand receive the rations, due for the past over 5 months, immediately. Watch Anil’s powerful video on the incident and read the article for more details. The past few months have been the longest and hardest for around 20 of the poorest families in Garpathra village, District Palamu, Jharkhand. Sources of income are scarce in the region. The families make their living with manual labor whenever employment is available. Under the Public Distribution System, these families are recognized as living below the poverty line (BPL) which denotes that the family income is less than Rs. 28/- (approx. 0.5 $)a day. They have a ration card which rightfully entitles them to government subsidized grains and fuel every month. Four months ago, the local ration shop had stopped giving them supplies. It was getting difficult to keep the stoves lit and put food on the table. Around 15 women organized themselves on the fateful evening of the 26th of July 2012, marched to the PDS shop and confronted the owner, Mr. Lal Mani Singh about the monthly rations.  The owner reacted with vehemence and spewed a slew of ‘caste abuses’ and cusses against the women. He threatened the women and asked them to leave at once. When the women began to retreat he began to chase them. He was joined by his son Azad Singh and nephew Regal Singh who were brandishing thick sticks. Saraswati Devi, the 45 year old victim, was the one standing nearest to them. They grabbed her and began hitting her mercilessly. Lal Mani Singh pulled out his gun and threatened to kill her. He began hitting with blows from the butt of his gun. Unable to bear the pain and the shock, Saraswati fainted. The other women meanwhile rushed to a local leader and told her about the incident. The villagers got together and when they returned to the spot of the violence they found Saraswati’s body lying on the ground hurt, mangled and unconscious. She was rushed to the hospital where she was found to be injured internally. The doctor pronounced that the wounds were serious and while recovery was guaranteed it would be a slow and painful process. The villagers decidedthat enough was enough, they would file a complaint at the local police station. On the way to the police station, Lal Mani Singh and his family once again blocked the way and threatened the people with dire consequences. The villagers persevered. But even with the complaint lodged the police were slow to act. That was when Community Correspondent Anil Gudia decided to intervene. Anil is veteran grassroots activist for the rights of the marginalized communities in the country. He had heard of the CGnet Swara going live in Jharkhand only the previous month. He decided to try out this new community media platform and report this incident as his first broadcast. “It may be shocking to the people out there that even in today’s world such incidents against marginalized communities take place in broad daylight. But it is an everyday reality in most parts of the country,” says Anil. “The people who perpetrate the atrocities think that they will escape prosecution because they have been doing so for ages. But they haven’t heard of community media and the internet.” “The victims will not be silent anymore," says Anil. "Once they begin to speak out, there are thousands who are ready to hear them out and support them. Suddenly, you can feel democracy coming out of its 60 year old slumber.” Change.org’s Tamseel Hussain was the one who made the key phone calls that brought the incident to the attention of the local authorities. “When I told the Deputy District Magistrate and the Sub-District Magistrate about the incident, they professed that they had never even heard about it. They thanked me for getting it to their attention.” The authorities moved quickly. But with the perpetrators behind bars, the ration shop lisence being revoked, the people are now waiting for the long due rations to be delivered. It is their daily needs that worry them now more than the ‘upper caste’ oppression. Says Tamseel, “The SDM has promised to give ration but nothing has been done yet. The people of the village are waiting. We need to escalate the issue immediately and get more attention on it.” Call to Action: You can help by calling the Sub-District Magistrate Mr Bindeshwari at 09431138170. Tell him that you have heard and seen the video on caste violence and PDS Corruption in Garpathra Village, District Palama. Tell him to ensure that the Below Poverty Line (BPL) Families living in the Garpathra village of Palamu District, Jharkhand receive the rations, due for the past over 5 months, immediately.
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