The project has recently been involved with several incidents of violence and abuse against 'low caste' Dalit people:
• Meera, a 14 year old Dalit girl from Kitti Adgaon, died in an accident in Kunal Ginning near her village. Her clothes got caught in the electric motor, forcing her head to bang with such force against the metal that she died before reaching medical aid. The project brought pressure on the police to arrest the mill owner, firstly for employing a child labourer in his mill, and secondly for negligence in the premises, causing such a fatal accident. Meera’s parents, supported by project staff, refused to accept Meera’s body until the mill owner was punished and due compensation was assured. The project also demanded that strict actions be taken to prevent child labour from being employed in this manner.
• Riots broke out in Chausala as the upper castes attacked Dalit families who had claimed the grazing lands and started farming on these lands. Many upper caste youths attacked the homes of these families, destroying the household belongings, damaging their homes and physically assaulting many people, including women. Terror reigned in the community for some time, until project workers reached the settlement and brought the police to take action. Without such intervention the regular course of action is for the police to be on the side of upper caste families and refuse to register cases or investigate atrocities. Cases were registered on the concerned persons under the Atrocity Act – which the police are also generally reluctant to use, preferring the more lenient non-caste based legislation.
• Poonam Ghatge was burnt alive by a youth who was affronted at Poonam’s refusal to marry him. The youth absconded. The project had to intervene to get the youth arrested and the case filed.
A brief update on the project more generally:
In the last year, the project has identified 2 women leaders from each of its 100 villages and 3 senior women leaders from the 10 ‘blocks’ (areas). These leaders have been trained in gender issues, the status of women in society, relevant government legislation and schemes for women, discrimination issues and violence against women. In particular trainings on the Atrocities Act, the formation and running of savings and self-help groups, and ‘how to help a woman in distress’ have been carried out. In addition over 200 savings groups have been registered. #
Through public programmes, such as the conference on the October 6 Dhamma Chakra Parivartan Day, various key policy demands that are of benefit to women are brought further into the public arena and to the attention of policy makers, as well as galvanizing more public support behind them These include matters such as entering women’s names in all property and the mother’s name in the name of every child, and also the formation of a ‘Women’s Vigilance Committee’ in every ‘block’, and the implementation of the 2005 Bill to prevent Domestic Violence against women.