• Tuesday, May 26, 2020
  • Last Update : 01:49 am

Denied in life, Dalits fight for land in death

  • Published at 08:43 pm March 6th, 2020
2020-01-17T100249Z_1_LYNXMPEG0G0NJ_RTROPTP_3_INDIA-UNEMPLOYMENT-RAJASTHAN
People belonging to the Dalit community take part in a nationwide strike called by several Dalit organisations, in Kasba Bonli, Rajasthan, India, April 2, 2018 Reuters

'We do not have land for housing or for livelihoods'

India's lower-caste Dalits are increasingly asserting their claims over land so they can bury their dead, human rights activists said on Friday, as their traditional burial grounds are targeted by real estate developers and higher-caste Hindus.

Last year, a viral video of Dalit men lowering a dead body by a rope from a bridge after an upper-caste community in the southern state of Tamil Nadu refused to allow the funeral procession to pass through their land, sparked a public uproar.

In other states, Dalits sometimes have to keep their deceased relatives for several days until they can resolve where to bury or cremate them, said Lalit Babar, general secretary of the National Federation of Dalit Land Rights, an advocacy group.

"We do not have land for housing or for livelihoods. Now, we are being denied land for dying," he said.

"We have launched campaigns in several states to demand that our traditional burial grounds be returned, or new land be allotted," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation at the sidelines of a land conference in Delhi.

India banned caste-based discrimination in 1955, but centuries-old biases against lower-caste groups, including Dalits persist, making it harder for them to access education, jobs and homes.

More than half the country's lower-caste population is landless, census data showed. While several states have laws aimed at giving land to Dalits, few have done so, according to Dalit activists and leaders.

Meanwhile, a growing population and rising pressure on land to build homes, highways, airports and industry is triggering conflicts, with farmers and lower-caste citizens most affected.

In rural areas where caste biases are most entrenched, Dalits have lost their burial ground to village elites, Babar said.

"Even where we do have land, there are no facilities like water and electricity. Or we are not allowed to pass through the village with the body to go to the burial ground," he said.

After a recent campaign by Dalit rights groups, authorities in the western state of Maharashtra have allocated small plots of land for cremation in villages with Dalit populations, he said.

A broader national campaign by Dalit activists has long demanded for 5 acres (2 hectares) of land for each Dalit family - enough for a home and small farm to live off.

Government officials in Tamil Nadu, in response to a court hearing after the viral video, said there was no discrimination against Dalits.

But there is a long-standing battle in the state over so-called panchami land, which was allocated to Dalits during the British colonial era.

Of an estimated 1.2 million acres (486,000 hectares) of land allotted, less than 10% is in the hands of Dalits, according to human rights groups.

Without land of their own, Dalits are forced to cremate their dead along riverbanks or on public land, said Richard Devadoss, a convenor for the South India Coalition for Land Rights, an advocacy group.

"Without land, they have no power, no dignity, even in death," he said.

68
61
blogger sharing button blogger
buffer sharing button buffer
diaspora sharing button diaspora
digg sharing button digg
douban sharing button douban
email sharing button email
evernote sharing button evernote
flipboard sharing button flipboard
pocket sharing button getpocket
github sharing button github
gmail sharing button gmail
googlebookmarks sharing button googlebookmarks
hackernews sharing button hackernews
instapaper sharing button instapaper
line sharing button line
linkedin sharing button linkedin
livejournal sharing button livejournal
mailru sharing button mailru
medium sharing button medium
meneame sharing button meneame
messenger sharing button messenger
odnoklassniki sharing button odnoklassniki
pinterest sharing button pinterest
print sharing button print
qzone sharing button qzone
reddit sharing button reddit
refind sharing button refind
renren sharing button renren
skype sharing button skype
snapchat sharing button snapchat
surfingbird sharing button surfingbird
telegram sharing button telegram
tumblr sharing button tumblr
twitter sharing button twitter
vk sharing button vk
wechat sharing button wechat
weibo sharing button weibo
whatsapp sharing button whatsapp
wordpress sharing button wordpress
xing sharing button xing
yahoomail sharing button yahoomail