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Friday, 7 January, 2005

Indian Dalits Forced Out of Relief Camps, Activists Charge

According to AFP, India's untouchables are being forced out of relief camps by higher caste survivors and being denied aid supplies, activists charged.

Kuppuswamy Ramachandran, 32, a Dalit or untouchable in India's rigid caste hierarchy, said he and his family were told to leave a relief camp in worst-hit Nagapattinam district where 50 more families were housed.

"The higher caste fishing community did not allow us to sleep in a marriage hall where they are put up because we belong to the lowest caste," Ramachandran said.

"After three days we were moved out to a school but now the school is going to reopen within three days and the teachers drove us out," he said.

"Where will I take my family and children? The school had no lights, toilets or drinking water," available for the displaced.

14 Comments Post a Comment
Blogger someone else said :

For the full text of the article, please visit:


This is a sobering example of how social and economic discrimination don't go away even though there's been a terrible tragedy. We need to be vigilant and work together with those share decent values.

Fri Jan 07, 09:48:00 PM IST  
Anonymous Anonymous said :

I dont think this story has any qualitative analysis in it. I mean look at the numbers. Out of 6000 that died, 81 were dalits - and were neglectet/forced out. It is about 1% of the people

India, however, has a much larger dalit polulation (I dont know the exact number but at least 5 - 8 %).

The story falls short of this simple analysis. I am sure there are other places in Tamil Nadu where relief did not reach & the population is not dalit.

Reason - someone has to get their project report done before they get fired. They are doing so at the cost of defaming India.

Fri Jan 07, 09:53:00 PM IST  
Blogger someone else said :

I don't think the article was meant to defame India as much as bring attention to a continuing issue. Here's a quote from the article:

"'The social discrimination has been there during normal times,' said Amudha, who heads a team of UNICEF volunteers in Nagapattinam. 'After the disaster happened it is still continuing. That is nothing new,' she said. Vijaya Lakshmi, spokeswoman for South India Federation of Fishermen Societies, agreed and said one could not wish away a centuries-old caste system when a disaster struck. 'If they (Dalits) are comfortable by staying separate they will,' she said."

I do agree, though, that the European and North American media doesn't do a great job of exploring all the nuances of these issues in a fair way.

Fri Jan 07, 10:05:00 PM IST  
Anonymous Anonymous said :

Caste politics raising its head again. I wonder if anyone would have written an article if some other castes were driven out.

It is not the question of Caste rearing up its head during a tragedy. It is simply a question of always looking at Caste problems when it comes to reporting about India.

Countries which have practised racism and seggregation for centuries always try to preach what they do not practice.

Fri Jan 07, 10:17:00 PM IST  
Anonymous Anonymous said :

That's India Uncovered. No one can deny that it happens all the time. Actually there is nothing to uncover this as this is done quite openly. There is nothing subtle or sophisticated about it. It's a pity that a lot of people in India, that includes all regions and religions , dont tend to think this is something inhuman. Though it must be said that its changing to an extent, its still a long way to go !!

Fri Jan 07, 10:21:00 PM IST  
Anonymous Anonymous said :

The article has written by one who does not know about the so called Indian caste system.

There are no high caste fishermen. Most of them are Dalits. Unfortunately even among the Dalits there is a higher and lower caste. There is a lot of caste descrimination among the Dalits themselves.

None of the so called higher caste will even dream of becoming a fisherman.

I can understand the ignorance of some prejudiced western reporter, but the ignorance of my Indian friends is apalling.

Fri Jan 07, 10:24:00 PM IST  
Blogger Steve-USA said :

Regardless of castes, or the politics and beliefs and traditions involved, its appalling for anyone to believe they are any better or more deserving than anybody else. Its acceptable to a point to have classifications of people based on where they live, or their occupation or how much money they make, thats normal in every society, but to demean someone for what they are or to also elevate someone for who they are, what they do or what they have over another individual or group when it comes to the issue of equality and humanity, is just ridiculous and disappointing. Im not casting blame on any group or on India itself, its one of the most intriguing and amazing countries in the world, however I caste blame on the hearts and minds that maintain this derogatory and detrimental mindset.

Fri Jan 07, 11:02:00 PM IST  
Anonymous Anonymous said :

It is true that there are probably no higher caste fishermen and its also true that there are lot of castes that constitute the Dalit community. But there are a lot of fishermen from OBCs and BCs and it is they who are relatively rich. As a person from TN I can vouch for that. And whoever practices such discrimination, it should be condemned. Now, it doesnt matter to me who has reported this. The fact that it happens in our country is something which is not exactly to be proud of. My friend, if you still insist that it doesnt happen there, why don't you visit any village in India and see it for yourself.

Fri Jan 07, 11:24:00 PM IST  
Blogger vishal said :

as the son of indian parents (grew up in the US), the caste system has been a great cultural embarassment. while I am sure I cannot appreciate the stress, discomfort and magnatude of the tsunami aftermath, this is a sad occurence. humans just need to be better to each other....everywhere (US included).

Fri Jan 07, 11:50:00 PM IST  
Anonymous Anonymous said :

All men were born equal. They all die the same way.

Fri Jan 07, 11:51:00 PM IST  
Blogger someone else said :

It is disturbing that there have been a number of journalistic stories prominently displayed on Yahoo!News in the past six hours that highlight people in various tsunami afflicted countries taking advantage of others. The others I've seen were on trafficking and a rape incident. I hope that this isn't some sort of weird blame-the-victim societies thing going on, in combination with a desire for sensationalistic accounts that differentiate themselves from the "ordinary" 100,000+ dead stories.

Sat Jan 08, 01:16:00 AM IST  
Anonymous Anonymous said :


I absolulely agree with your later comment that the media might just want to give something 'different' to its audiences.

The caste partition is there and various people and organizations working on it to eliminate it.

For e.g. one of the founding missions of RSS has been - seamless unification of the Indian society. If you look at the population who marry out of cast - RSS inspired are among the prominent ones. RSS has once again showed this by removing dead bodies (job dreaded by most others, even by trained officials) & by providing relief efforts regardless of caste/religion.

Sat Jan 08, 04:27:00 AM IST  
Anonymous Anonymous said :

Steve, I can only agree with you to a point. Every society in the world has its own rules and caste systems.

Unfortunately America is one of the leading Nations of unspoken Caste systems in the world.

The violence in our schools of students against other students who do not fit the idea of the perfect American are an example of confusion in America.

We absolutely promote our favorite stars no matter how snobby or inappropriate they behave. The promotion of self over others is predominate and you know this is true.

As a foreigner I wish to encourage all Indian citizens to stand against injustice just as many Americans had to or whats worse still have to stand against the racial prejudice in USA.

How about taking the log out of our own eye before we try to remove the splinter from someone elses.

Debra Koehler

Sat Jan 08, 05:24:00 AM IST  
Blogger Steve-USA said :

I agree with you almost entirely Deborah. I never intended to convey the idea that America is free from prejudice based on peoples or groups of peoples status in society. In fact I am all the more capable of speaking out about how deplorable the caste system is,BECAUSE I live in the USA, and because of its history and even ongoing racial conflicts. However to compare our "caste" system as the equivalent to that of India's or the ideologies concerning religion, cultural, and racial intolerance in other countries throughout places like Asia, the Middle East and many places in Europe, is inaccurate in my opinion. But I definitely agree that America still has progress to make, and ultimately I hope other countries, though they maintain their own cultural and traditional ways, can learn from our mistakes and improve upon them.

Sun Jan 09, 02:53:00 AM IST