February 3, 2009 2:45:50 am
Dalits in 10,000 villages out of the total 18,000 in Gujarat still do not have their traditional burial grounds. That has forced them to remain at the mercy of the upper castes to perform the last rites of their dead,says a study conducted by the Behavioural Science Centre (BSC),Ahmedabad. The discriminatory practice continues despite the Revenue Department passing a circular to the district collectors to provide land to Dalits in the rural areas to bury their dead.
To oppose the governments denial of their right over the burial ground,around 1,500 Dalits from across the state are going to demonstrate in front of the Gandhi Ashram on Tuesday under the banner of Gujarat Rajya Gram Panchayat Samajik Nyay Samiti Manch. The leaders of the forum announced the demonstration programme at a press conference in the city on Monday. During the conference,the leaders also disclosed findings of a study done by the BSC in nine districts of the state regarding the status of burial grounds for Dalits in the state.
As per the study,which was done in 657 villages,only 260 have been allotted the land by the district administration. BSC Programme Manager Joseph Pateliya said there are encroachments such as ploughing fields,passing of roads and the like in 94 villages where the land has been allotted. Apart from that,many of the allotted lands are devoid of good roads and face problems of water logging during monsoon, Pateliya added. Around 60 per cent of the villages in the state do not have burial grounds for Dalits. The study has been done in Kutch,Ahmedabad,Porbandar,Amreli,Rajkot,Junagadh,Anand,Banaskantha and Sabarkantha districts.
Pateliya said at every level of rural administration there is a provision of forming a Social Justice Committee,which is empowered to implement policies for Dalits. Surprisingly,however,in many villages,the committee does not even exist, he added.
Forum president Mohan Parmar said: We are facing discrimination in life,but it is very unfortunate that there is discrimination even in death. We have made representations before the authorities a number of times for our rights,but all in vain. Post demonstration,they will present a memorandum to Revenue Minister Anandiben Patel and Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Faqir Vaghela.
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