Dalits Media Watch
News Updates 15.06.15
Ambedkar statue vandalised; Dalits protest - The Hindu
Ex dalit sarpanch in Morena continues protest in hospital - The Times Of India
SP govt has failed to protect dalits in the state, says Punia - The Times Of India
20 Mths On, No Action Against Tormentor Cop - The New Indian Express
Ringing with hate - Frontline
Congress for invoking SC/ST Act against BJP leader - The Tribune
Not many takers for BDA two-bedroom flats - The Hindu
Lynching of boy underlines how the curse of caste still blights India - The Guardian
London house to become museum to Indian activist - The Guardian
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Ambedkar statue vandalised; Dalits protest
A statue of B. R. Ambedkar was allegedly vandalised at village Palahi near here on Sunday, sparking protests by Dalits who blocked roads at many places in the district.
The statue's raised arm was found twisted and damaged in a park at village Palahi, the police said. Protesting against the incident, members of Dalit community blocked traffic on Phagwara-Chandigarh bypass in front of Palahi village, at Bhullarai crossing of the by-pass and Phagwara-Palahi crossing on Phagwara-Hoshiarpur road, they said.
Led by BSP leader Jarnail Nangal and Ambedkar Sena Moolnivasi Punjab President Harbhajan Suman, protesters raised anti-government slogans. The protesters also threatened to call for a bandh on Wednesday if the culprits are not arrested by then.
They alleged that it was the second such incident of vandalisation in two-and-half-months. Earlier, a statue of Ambedkar was damaged in local Palahigate mohalla in the intervening night of April 4-5 and police failed to trace the miscreants, they alleged. They also alleged that miscreants had intentionally vandalised the statues in the localities with Dalit population in order to create tension.They demanded immediate arrest of culprits and security for all statues of Ambedkar. – PTI
The Times Of India
Ex dalit sarpanch in Morena continues protest in hospital
TNN | Jun 15, 2015, 12.44 PM IST
BHOPAL: Former woman dalit sarpanch of Purawas Kalan, a small village in Morena district, continued her agitation in government hospital at district headquarter on Sunday despite her arrest and forced feeding on June 12 following her three-day fast unto death.
She has been demanding construction of a school in her village, a proposal which was passed when she was village sarpanch. Present sarpanch has stopped construction work, said Badami, as the school is close to a dalit basti of the village.
After more than 15 days of agitation near office of district collector of Morena, Badami started fast unto death on June 10. After her health condition deteriorated, she was arrested and fed forcibly. She was admitted at the government hospital where she refused to eat again. "My agitation will continue till the school is constructed", she said. Badami Devi hogged limelight two years ago when she was not allowed to unfurl national trio colour as sarpanch of the village during independence day function and the chief minister had to intervene.
"Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan made me his rakhi sister when I had gone to seek his help to unfurl national trio colour. This time when he had come to Morena two days ago, he did not meet me," she said. Jayant Tomar, her supporter, replaced Badami and continued fast unto death after she was arrested from the place of agitation near the office of collector.
Badami Devi has been demanding construction of a school in her village, a proposal which was passed when she was village sarpanch.
The Times Of India
SP govt has failed to protect dalits in the state, says Punia
TNN | Jun 15, 2015, 10.48 AM IST
ALLAHABAD: National Commission for Scheduled Castes chairman PL Punia on Sunday alleged that atrocities against dalits had increased manifold under Samajwadi Party's watch and stressed on the need of addressing the issue on priority basis.
Punia was in the city to visit village Mohaddinpur in trans-Yamuna reagion of Ghoorpur where two dalits were killed following a tiff over payment of Rs 4 on Friday. "The state government has failed to instill sense of security in dailts and backwards of the state. This time too, compensation was handed over to victim's kin to hide the failure of law and order," he told reporters.
He also condemned the murder of scribe Jogendra Singh in Shahjahanpur and demanded a CBI probe into the involvement of UP minister. He said that the accused should be put behind bars.
Later, the commission chairperson met the victims and assured of appropriate action.
The New Indian Express
20 Mths On, No Action Against Tormentor Cop
By R Prince Jebakumar
Published: 15th June 2015 06:00 AM
CHENNAI: Twenty months have gone by since four Dalits from Thoothukudi were detained, tortured and lodged behind bars for 90 days over a double-murder they were falsely accused of committing. They were let go after real culprits were later caught, and an internal inquiry has found the inspector who foisted the case on the four guilty of cooking up evidence. The victims' search for justice is still on, as there has not been any action against the official so far.
"I petitioned the SP, range DIG, home secretary and the Chief Minister's Special Cell seeking action against the inspector," Yesudasan, one of the victims, told Express. But there has been no action against the official. Yesudasan, along with his relatives Immanuel alias Sudalaimuthu, Varadarajan and Paramasivam were arrested by inspector Selvam due to their suspected connection with a double murder. But as the senior officials themselves inquired, the real story emerged.
It all started when Selvam showed interest in a piece of land belonging to Pichammal, the mother-in-law of Immanuel, in October 2013. The land came to his attention during a petition inquiry after his friend, Anthony Pandian, had a dispute with Pichammal. The land, a family property, was worth approximately `36 lakh then, but Selvam wanted it for a paltry sum of `10 lakh.
Immanuel discussed the matter with Yesudasan before turning down the deal, and informed the official that they would approach the court to settle the civil dispute. Just days later, there was a double-murder in which one Anthony Pandian and his driver Shyamaraj were killed. Soon, Selvam had the four relatives detained on charges of committing the murder adn they were allegedly beaten up.
An internal probe report faulted the inspector for forging statements as signed by the local village administrative officier and one Subramanian. Selvam allegedly forged their signatures as witnesses to the seizure of two swords and two sickles from Yesudasan, and also to record the injuries Yesudasan sustained in custodial torture as those inflicted during the murder.
In a scathing indictment of his conduct as an officer of law, the probe report said, "Selvam has caused a stigma on the department and that there are adequate evidences to prove the charges against him." This report was submitted over a month ago, but no action has been initiated, alleged the victims, who now want the cop be booked under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
Noting that the departmental inquiry itself has indicted the inspector for misusing his official position to commit atrocities against the Dalits, senior advocate K Elangovan said there was no justification for the police department to delay action against the inspector.
Ringing with hate
By Lyla Bavadam
Interview with Anand Teltumbde, writer and civil rights activist. By LYLA BAVADAM »
Crimes against Dalits are on the rise in Maharashtra. Among the root causes are land-grabbing and sheer rage of dominant castes against the "defiance" of the lower castes. By LYLA BAVADAM
CASTE tensions are simmering in Maharashtra, where in the past 12 months alone there have been seven caste-related murders. The seemingly low figure is significant because the seven people lost their lives only because of the lower social status ascribed to them by birth. And the State revels in calling itself progressive and modern. The murders were of a gruesome nature; it was as if some vengeance was being exacted.
Only some of these cases have been registered under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, though on the face of it there are adequate pointers to a caste angle to all of them. Analysis of National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data for crimes against Scheduled Castes under the Prevention of Atrocities Act from 2001 to 2012 shows that Maharashtra had 3,210 reported cases of atrocities in this period. The State was ninth on the list, which Uttar Pradesh topped with 26,378 cases followed by Tamil Nadu with 10,845. Priyadarshi Telang of Manuski, an organisation that campaigns for social justice, says Maharashtra has an annual conviction rate of less than 3 per cent and thus holds the State "responsible for the increasing caste atrocities in Maharashtra". The latest case, the murder of a young Dalit man in Shirdi, highlights the growing trend of violence against Dalits in Maharashtra. On May 16, nursing student Sagar Shejwal was murdered and his body mutilated. The reason for this brutality was something as innocuous as his cell phone ringtone, "Kara kitihi halla, majboot Bhimacha killa" (Raise your voice all you want, Bhim's fort remains strong). It is a song of strength for Dalits, a rallying cry with its references to solidarity and community togetherness and the leadership of B.R. Ambedkar. The higher castes perceive it as defiance, especially if they nurture resentment towards Dalits. This is what seems to have happened in Shirdi.
Sagar had come home to Shirdi to attend a wedding. On May 16, he and two cousins went to a local beer bar. At some point, his phone rang and this apparently annoyed some men in the bar. Recounting the story later, his brother Akash said a man came up to Sagar and asked for his name. When he replied, he asked Sagar to switch off his phone. Sagar refused, saying it caused no one any problem. That innocuous statement, combined with his obviously Dalit surname, was enough for the man and his eight friends to attack Sagar and his cousins with beer bottles. Akash said the bar owner called the police who apparently replied they had no vehicle to come to the site. Akash pointed out that that the police station was just two minutes' walk away.
As the fight turned more violent, Sagar got the worst of it. He was hit, kicked, punched, dragged out of the bar in a semi-conscious state, dumped onto a motorbike and taken away. His cousins alerted the rest of the family, but even a second appeal to the police station was turned down. The inspector apparently said, "He was just hit with a few bottles, wasn't he? He will be back in the evening." Unsatisfied with this, the boys gathered their friends and mounted a search. "We knew the general direction in which the bike had gone and kept asking people," said Akash, "and we finally found his body in a jungle."
Significantly, the fight was captured by the bar's security camera. This played a big part in the six arrests that have taken place so far. But what happened outside the shop was far worse and for this there are no witnesses. Once he was dumped on the bike, Sagar was taken to a wooded area, where his body was later found stripped of clothes and with multiple fractures and telltale marks of a two-wheeler having been driven over him. The autopsy report said he died of multiple fractures. The six men have been booked, among other things, for murder and offences under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Sagar's assailants belong to the Maratha caste and Other Backward Classes (OBC).
The other six murders too highlight some commonalities. All of them were caste-specific. In all the reported cases, the aggressors were either from the Maratha community or from the OBCs, people belonging to communities just one level higher than Dalits in the caste hierarchy. Explaining this surprising lack of empathy for their kindred folk, Paul Divakar of the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights says that those communities which were not traditionally "upper caste", have now risen economically and are part of the power structure. Marathas, for instance, are new entrants to a higher social standing. Keen to maintain this, they ally themselves with the upper castes and prove their allegiance by stomping on the traditional underdog, Dalits.
Another commonality in the cases is the police baulking at registering cases under the Prevention of Atrocities Act. They either dismiss serious crimes as trivial offences (like the police inspector in Shirdi who told Sagar's family that it was just a bar brawl) or introduce a "Dalit-boy-upper-caste-girl" love angle in order to lessen the gravity of crimes that actually have their roots in land-grabbing, sheer assertion of caste dominance, or rage by dominant castes at what they see as "defiance" or the lower castes "getting above themselves". The Dalit writer and activist Anand Teltumbde said: "This comes handy for the police to divert attention and create indignation among the people. It is a typical ploy which extends to the judicial process too that the atrocity was not due to caste motive. Khairlanji [where four members of a Dalit family were killed in 2006] exemplifies it wherein the lower court dismissed the argument that there was caste motive in the gory incident."
Some of the fatal crimes against Dalits in the past 12 months are listed below.
On April 3, 2014, a former sarpanch named Ganesh Chavan in Jalna district assaulted a Dalit called Manoj Kasab. The reason: Kasab became sarpanch thanks to reservation and Chavan was offended that he had been "usurped" by a Dalit. Kasab's assailant was a Maratha and he was booked under the Prevention of Atrocities Act along with 10 others who had helped Chavan.
On April 25, 2014, Umesh Agale was stabbed to death in a village in Aurangabad district. He was suspected of having an affair with an upper-caste girl. Three Maratha men lured Agale out of his house on the pretext of talking to him, killed him in the adjoining fields and dumped his body in a well. There was initial resistance to treating this as a caste atrocity case, but the police later registered it as such and booked the three men.
Three days later, on April 28, a teenaged Dalit boy was strangled to death and his body was hung from a tree in Ahmednagar district because he spoke to a Maratha girl. The boy, Nitin Aghe, was taken from his school by the girl's brother and another man, beaten and then strangled. Initial investigations did not even treat the death as murder, let alone a caste crime, but later this was reversed and a case was registered under the Prevention of Atrocities Act.
On May 1, 2014, Manik Udage was crushed to death in a stone quarry by four Maratha men from his own village in Pune district because they objected to the celebrations Udage had planned for Ambedkar Jayanti. It took a year for the police to register a case under the Prevention of Atrocities Act.
A fortnight later, on May 16, Sanjay Khobragade, a Dalit activist in his forties, was set on fire in Gondia district. He was trying to prevent a higher-caste family from usurping land set aside for a Buddha vihar. Despite 90 per cent burns, Khobragade managed to give a dying declaration to the police implicating six people of a Powar family. They were charged under the Prevention of Atrocities Act but were set free when a new angle was "discovered", in which the victim's wife was apparently engaged in a liaison with someone else.
October 21, 2014, saw three of a family butchered in caste violence in Ahmednagar district. Sanjay Jadhav, his wife, Jayshree, and their son Sunil were murdered in the early hours of the day. When farm labourers told Sanjay Jadhav's brother they had not turned up for work, a search was initiated. The mutilated bodies of the men were found strewn around in a farm. The woman's body was found with a deep injury on the head. The cause of this violence was attributed to an alleged alliance between Sunil and an upper-caste girl. No immediate arrests were made, but later the very man who had filed the first information report (FIR) was arrested. He was the deceased man's nephew and the police maintain that the reason for the crime was a family dispute. Once this arrest was made, the charge of "family dispute" safely took the case out of the realm of the Prevention of Atrocities Act. Nothing more was heard about the initial claim that there was an alliance between Sunil and an upper-caste girl.
On January 1, 2013, Ahmednagar district saw the murder of three Dalit men who worked as safai kamgars (cleaners). Sandip Dhanwar, Sachin Dharu and Rahul Kandare were called one morning to clean a septic tank at the house of Prakash Darandale, a Maratha. At 8 p.m., a relative of Dhanwar received a call from the police saying he had drowned in the septic tank. Knowing two other people had accompanied Dhanwar, the relative asked the caller about their whereabouts. He was told they had already left. A few hours later, he received another call from the police informing him that the other two were found dead in a well. The bodies of these two were mutilated, with Dharu's head and limbs severed from the body. Cases under the Prevention of Atrocities Act were registered and the police said that it was related to honour killing because of some involvement with an upper-caste girl.
These cases are just the reported ones. There are many that have not ended fatally and many remain unreported because of the tedium of the legal process as well as dominant caste arrogance that deters people from pursuing justice. Dr V.A. Ramesh Nathan, general secretary of the National Dalit Movement for Justice, says that at the national level conviction takes place in fewer than 10 per cent of the cases under the Prevention of Atrocities Act. Compare this with the 44 per cent conviction rate for cases filed under the Indian Penal Code (IPC). He attributes the low percentage of convictions to poor investigation and implementation of the law.
"In almost all cases, counter-cases are filed and the victim or their family is forced to withdraw their original case. In the special courts there is a nexus [between the authorities]. They do things like not filing the charge sheet on time," said Nathan.
If the Prevention of Atrocities Act is to be seen as the deterrent it is meant to be, then cases need to be resolved with some speed. While constitutional and legal means of justice exist for Dalits, their implementation is sluggish. For many this is as good as no law.
Congress for invoking SC/ST Act against BJP leader
Tribune News Service, Jalandhar, June 14
The chairman of the SC Wing, the Punjab Pardesh Congress Committee (PPCC), Dr Raj Kumar Chabbewal, today met the family of the deceased Nishan Singh (45) who allegedly committed suicide due to the harassment by a BJP leader and three other persons.
Chabbewal demanded invoking the SC/ST Act against the BJP leader, Pardeep Khullar, and three others, including a PSPCL employee Subash Chandar, Kala Kutya Wala and Kasturi Lal. All were booked for abetting the suicide of a provisional store owner Nishan, resident of New Shashtri Nagar.
Chabbewal said Nishan was living in a rented accommodation along with his wife, and three children, including two girls and a boy. "His family told me that the BJP leader Khullar was threatening them to leave the house. He also filed a fake complaint of power theft with the PSPCL and in connivance with the PSPCL employee, their electricity meter was also removed," he said adding that all the four accused were torturing the family due to which Nishan went into depression and committed suicide.
"On Monday, we will meet the Police Commissioner and the Deputy Commissioner, Jalandhar, to seek immediate arrest of the BJP leader. If the police does not pay heed to our demands, Congress workers will gherao the Police Commissioner's office," Chabbewal added.
Chabbewal was also accompanied by Jagdish Samrai, Chairman District Congress Committee SC Department, Atul Chadha, general secretary DCC and several other Congress worker.
Notably, Nishan's body was found hanging at his residence on June 10. No suicide note was recovered from the spot. On the allegation of his wife, a case of abetment to suicide was registered at the Basti Bawa Khel police station.
BJP leader's house locked
As per the city police, all the four accused had gone underground and raids were being conducted to nab them. Sources said since the registration of the case, residences of the BJP leader and other persons booked in the case were locked.
Not many takers for BDA two-bedroom flats
K. V. Aditya Bharadwaj
Chitra V. Ramani
Allotment of 800 flats scheduled for June 18, but there are only 290 eligible applicants
Yet again, Bangalore Development Authority's (BDA) two-bedroom flats that are ready for occupation, have received poor response from buyers. While the three earlier allotment rounds saw under subscription, the latest round is also under subscribed.
The BDA is all set to allot over 800 two-bedroom flats at three sites in the city on June 18. However, there are only 290 applicants who are eligible to participate in the allotment lottery.
This is not the first time the BDA is facing poor response for its flats. In November last, the authority's allotment of one-bedroom flats was not well received, and of the 1,400 flats notified, only around 960 were allotted.
BDA officials conceded that there was a huge difference between the number of flats at Doddabanhalli, near ITPL, and the number of applicants. A senior official, on condition of anonymity, told The Hindu that with higher purchase power, many citizens were now able to afford luxurious flats constructed by private builders. "This is true especially in the case of Doddabanhalli, where most of the residents are software professionals," the official said.
However, the official pointed out that with full handover still around eight months away, the demand for the flats may go up. "When the applications were called in last February, construction of the flats had not yet begun. After the allotment next week, we will invite applications for another round; and we are confident that the numbers will see a definite increase then," he said.
Officials also said that once allotment was done, the allottees would have to pay the cost of the flat (Rs. 25 lakh) in four instalments i.e. once in two months, following which the flats would be handed over. The officials added that there was no rebate for two-bedroom flats for those from the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.
Meanwhile, BDA Commissioner T. Sham Bhatt maintained that there were sufficient numbers of applicants. He said applications were more for some projects compared to others. "We will give them an option to chose flats in other projects," he said.
Projects ready for allotment
Doddabanhalli, near ITPL: 624 flats, 159 applicants
Valagerahalli on Mysuru Road: 48 flats, 45 applicants
Kanminike, off Mysuru Road: 150 flats, 86 applicants
Dimension of the two-bedroom flat: 783 sq. ft
Cost of the flat: Rs. 25 lakh (to be paid in 4 instalments)
Why are there few takers for BDA flats
Some locations have been found to be far
Property buyers prefer to buy luxurious apartments
Built-up area of BDA flats is small
Gunjur, near Varthur
Gottigere on Bannerghatta Road
Kothnur, J.P. Nagar 8th Phase
Tippasandra, within Anjanapura Layout
Halagevaderahalli, near Rajarajeshwarinagar
Komaghatta, off NICE Road
Sonnenahalli, within Sir M. Vishveshwaraya Layout
Gidadakonenahalli, within Sir M. Vishveshwaraya Layout
Malagala, within Nagarbhavi Layout
Alur, off Tumkur Road
Lynching of boy underlines how the curse of caste still blights India
Sai Ram, burned alive because of a stray goat, was just one of 17,000 Dalits to fall victim to caste violence in the state of Bihar
In another time, another place, Sai Ram might have escaped serious harm. But he died in great pain last week, a casualty of a bitter, barely reported conflict that still claims many lives every year.
Ram, 15, was a goatherd in a village in the poor eastern Indian state of Bihar. He was a Dalit, from the lowest rung of the caste hierarchy that still defines the lives, and sometimes the deaths, of millions of people in the emerging economic power.
His alleged killer, currently being held by local police, is from a higher landowning caste. He took offence when one of the teenager's goats strayed on to his paddy field and grazed on his crops. Ram was overpowered by the landowner and a group of other men. He was badly beaten.
Then petrol was poured over him and lit, Ram's father, Jiut Ram, said. "He was crying for help, then went silent," the 50-year-old daily wage labourer told the Guardian.
The incident took place at Mohanpur village, about 125 miles (200km) south-west of Bihar's capital, Patna, in an area known for caste tensions. It was the latest in a series of violent incidents that have once again highlighted the problems and discrimination linked to caste, particularly in lawless and impoverished rural areas.
Earlier this month, five Dalit women were allegedly gang-raped by upper-caste men in central Bihar's Bhojpur district. In September, hundreds of Dalit families were forced from their homes in two other districts of Bihar after a man from the community tried to contest a local election against higher caste candidates.
Several political, social and economic factors usually lie behind such upsurges in caste-related violence. One reason for Bihar's recent incidents may be the appointment in May of Jitan Ram Manjhi, a Dalit, as the chief minister of the state.
Since taking power Manjhi has announced measures to help other Dalits in Bihar, one of India's poorest states, and is reported to have urged the community to have more children to become a more powerful political force.
Dalits account for some 15% of Bihar's population of 103.8 million.
The chief minister's call was not well received by members of other castes, local observers said.
Sachindra Narayan, a prominent Patna-based social scientist with the National Human Rights Commission in Delhi, said: "The prime reason [for the violence] is that [Dalits] feel empowered after seeing someone from their community at the head of the state and have begun to assert their rights. This is purely a retaliation from the dominant social groups."
Manjhi claims a temple in northern Bihar was ritually cleaned and idols washed with holy water after his visit to the shrine. Such ceremonies are still performed by upper castes to eradicate "pollution" left by lower-caste visitors.
"A deep-rooted bias prevails against … those from the downtrodden sections of society … I have myself been a victim of caste bias," the 70-year-old said.
Opponents claim Manjhi was stoking caste tensions for political advantage.
In the vast neighbouring state of Uttar Pradesh, caste is also a major political issue, with power contested by two parties that broadly represent two different caste communities. That of Mayawati explicity campaigns for Dalits, while the ruling Samajwadi party is seen by many as representing the Yadav community, once pastoralists.
Caste became a factor in recent national elections too. The prime minister, Narendra Modi, comes from a poor family from the lower-caste Ghanchicommunity, which is associated with selling oil. His rise from humble origins to leader of 1.25 billion people has inspired many – but also provoked scorn from elite politicians who have mocked his background.
The origins of caste are contested. Some point to ancient religious texts, others to rigid classifications of more local definitions of community and identities by British imperial administrators. The word "caste" is of Portuguese origin.
Regardless of its origins, the word still has the power to stir controversy. Arundhati Roy, the Booker prize-winning author, recently accused Mahatma Gandhi, India's revered independence leader, of discrimination and called for institutions bearing his name to be renamed because of his attitude to caste.
She said: "It is time to unveil a few truths about a person whose doctrine of nonviolence was based on the acceptance of the most brutal social hierarchy ever known, the caste system … Do we really need to name our universities after him?"
Sociologists say the rapid urbanisation of India has weakened the caste system as the realities of living in overcrowded Indian cities make reinforcing social separation and discrimination through rituals or violence much harder.
But if change is coming to places like rural Bihar, it is often accompanied by violence.
Last October a roadside bomb killed Sunil Pandey, a landowner who was alleged to be a senior figure in a militia formed in 1994 to enforce the interests of higher castes in the state, but which has been largely dormant recently.
The Ranvir Sena militia, formed by men of the Bhumihar caste of landlords, is held responsible for a series of massacres of Dalits in the 1990s. These murders, in effect reprisals against local Maoist guerrillas, who have also killed many, reached a bloody climax with the deaths of 58 men, women and children with no connection to extremism in the village of Lakshman Bathe in 1998. Ranvir Sena and Pandey were blamed.
Last year 24 men had their convictions for that massacre overturned by Bihar's high court, prompting renewed clashes.
The authorities have pledged rapid justice for Ram, the 15-year-old burned to death last week. But of nearly 17,000 pending trials in Bihar involving charges of violence against Dalits only a 10th were dealt with last year.
"We are going to … start speedy trial of the case," Chandan Kumar Kushwaha, the local superintendent of police, said, while the chief minister told reporters he was taking a personal interest in the case.
"I have talked to the state's director general of police and district superintendent of police concerned, and ordered them to … deliver instant justice to the victim [sic] family," Manjhi said.
For the teenager's father, nothing can compensate for the death of his son. "My entire world is lost now," he said.
London house to become museum to Indian activist
Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, one of founders of modern India and critic of caste system, lived in the house in Primrose Hill in 1921-22
A six-bedroom house in north London is set to become a museum to one of India's most revered – but still controversial – campaigners and political figures after being bought for £3m-£4m by a provincial government in the south Asian country.
Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, a politician, social activist and lawyer who drafted much of the Indian constitution, lived in the house in London's Primrose Hill while a student at the London School of Economics in 1921 and 1922.
Ambedkar was a Dalit, or "untouchable", from the lowest rank of the tenacious social hierarchy known as caste. However, he escaped poverty and discrimination to win scholarships to study economics at LSE and Columbia University, New York and to qualify as a barrister in London. A fierce critic of the caste system, he became India's first law minister when the country won its independence in 1947. Ambedkar is still revered today by Dalits there and across the world.
The house will be turned into a museum and library, with rooms available for Dalits from India who are studying, like Ambedkar, at the LSE on two new scholarships. It will need up to £1m of refurbishment and conversion work if the sale goes through.
Arun Kumar, general secretary of the UK-based Federation of Ambedkarite and Buddhist Organisations, said: "It is a historical place. [Ambedkar] came to London and was exposed to an atmosphere of freedom and equality and went back to India building on everything he had seen and saying, 'If in western countries there is equality, why not in India?'"
Ambedkar was born a Hindu but converted to Buddhism before he died in 1956, convinced that caste discrimination was intrinsic to his original faith. Remembered as one of the founders of modern India, his portrait hangs in many homes of India's 200 million Dalits. "He is a hero to us, a saint, like our god," said 38-year-old Radhika Kumar, a Dalit and a cleaner in Delhi.
Ambedkar's views on caste contrasted with those of Mahatma Gandhi, the revered independence leader whose statue was recently unveiled in Parliament Square. Gandhi condemned caste discrimination, but believed its causes were not religious and that parts of the caste system should be maintained.
The museum is being funded by the government of Maharashtra, the Indian state where Ambedkar's family was from. Dalits are an important constituency in India and wooed by politicians. Next year is the 125th anniversary of his birth.
"This is a historical moment for us because it is not just a house but has the emotions of all Indians attached to it," Rajkumar Badole, Maharashtra's minister of social justice, said in London this year. Badole pledged too to fund an Ambedkar chair at the LSE and scholarships.
Supporters of the museum say it will have relevance in the UK, too. Research by the British government has found evidence of caste discrimination among Britons of Asian origin in the workplace and in schools. Legislation is due to be introduced this year to make caste discrimination an offence in Britain. "It is important to send a message here, too," said Kumar.
News monitored by Girish Pant & AJEET
On behalf of
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