//Gujjarat : Dalits protest denial of burial rights

Gujjarat : Dalits protest denial of burial rights

[ Saturday, January 28, 2006 09:09:39 pmTIMES NEWS NETWORK

AHMEDABAD: "Do gaz zameen bhi na mili ku-e yaar mein", Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar’s wrote for his epitaph.

If Zafar was lamenting about not getting a burial space in his country, the dalits in Gujarat regret non-ownership of burial ground in their own village! On Saturday several dalit leaders from 10 districts complained that they are denied ownership to burial ground in the villages they live in.

"In 90 per cent of the villages, dalits are denied ownership of burial grounds.We may have a small patch of land to bury our dead, but it is not committed on paper in the community’s name by the gram panchayat making us vulnerable. We can be denied rights over the land any day leaving us in the lurch," says Rajesh Parmar, general secretary of the Gujarat State Gram Panchayat Samajik Nyay Samiti Forum.

Over 1,000 dalit leaders who are either chairpersons or members of the social justice committees (SJCs) from 50 talukas in 10 districts of the state had congregated in the city to participate in a convention held to build capacity and make them aware of their powers to change their plights be it related to issues namely water, roads, burial ground and others from the panchayat system.

Gujarat was the first state to make it mandatory to form SJCs at all three levelsgram, taluka and district panchayat— constituting 3-5 SC-ST representatives of the village with a compulsory reservation for a dalit woman and a member of the Valmiki Samaj.
But poor implementation, however, seems to have defeated the purpose behind the great move as majority of the members are not aware of their powers to bring about change.

So, as many dalit leaders pointed out, many a time higher castes manipulate and occupy their burial grounds leaving them with no room for their final repose.

Like it happened in Tamsa village in Khambat, Anand. "Overnight, members of a particular community sowed paddy on the entire burial ground," says Hirabhai Parmar of Daheda village in Khambat.