Thursday, June 26, 2008

Dalits among dalits

Today there is great deal of consciousness of dalit issues and dalit rights as human rights. While several castes and communities come under the broad category of Dalits, we wish to draw your attention to the situation of the Madiga community who comprise 40-50% of the Scheduled castes. In different parts of the country one comes across different names for the Madigas- Chamars and Mangs in Maharashtra, Chaklaiyas in Tamilanadu, Madigas in Andhra and Karnataka and possibly Matangs in parts of North India. Madigas are the dalits among the dalits and we urge you to join our appeal for equal justice to all scheduled caste
A majority of the scheduled castes live in dire poverty and face social discrimination as they work as leather workers, agricultural labourers, manual scavengers, bonded labourers and industrial labourers in the unorganized sectors. While historical structural processes have led to this situation, the policy of reservations for employment and admissions into educational institutions has tried to redress the situation by positive discrimination and affirmative action.
Yet the policy has been blind to the inequalities and disparities within the various dalit communities. Such an un-differentiated reservation policy has only stressed the traditional hierarchy and inequality among the scheduled castes leading to a call for classifications of such reservations so that all communities get their proportionate share of the benefits.
In Andhra Pradesh, such a campaign has led to the classification of reservations recognizing that the adi-andhra groups, the Malas, the Madigas, the Relli groups have experienced traditional oppression differently and have utilized the reservation policy also in a differentiated manner. The commission of enquiry found that though Malas and Madigas form 41% and 47% of the SC population respectively, 62% of all reserved State Govt jobs have been secured by Malas and Madigas have 31%. This corresponded also with the educational situation. Admissions to Arts and Science courses in 3 universities and in the residential welfare educational institutions for 5th standard to Pre-university, reveal that 65- 72% of the SC quota is utilized by Malas and only 35-40% seats taken by Madigas.
In Tamilnadu and Karnataka, independent research by dalit groups has revealed the same imbalance and disproportionate access to reservations. In Tamilanadu while the literacy rate among Scheduled castes as a whole is 19%, among the Chakkaliyars ( Madigas) , it is only 4% (1991 census). Only 1% of government jobs are held by Chakkaliyars though a total of 18% of government jobs are occupied by Scheduled Castes. The number of Scheduled Castes MLAS at present is 45, which includes only 3 Chakkaliyars ( Madigas). While the Parayars and Palars have also been sidelined, it is painful to note that there have been no Members of Parliament, Judges or IPS officers from among the Chakkaliyars so far.
In different parts of the country today, especially in the southern states, the campaign for classification of reservations is gathering momentum. Since the Malas and the Madigas are the most numerous comprising almost 80-90% of the scheduled castes, such a campaign is projected merely as a competition or rift between these two groups when in reality it is about justice and cuts across all the SC communities.
We appeal to you join us in our demand for Classification of job reservations within the Scheduled Castes, so that each community feels encouraged by a differentiated reservation policy and gets its proportionate share of government jobs, social status and political voice.
We appeal to you to recognise that while all dalits are suffering from poverty and humiliation, the Madiga people are at the bottom of the hierarchy.

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