Shame on civil society: Condition of Pardhis (Fase- Paradhi) in MP
National Commission for Denotified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Tribes
Report on the incident involving Pardhis, Madhya Pradesh,
9-11 September 2007
The Commission represented by Sh. Balakrishna Renke (Chairman), Sh. Laxmibhai Patni (Member) and Dr. Meena Radhakrishna (Director Research) visited Betul district in Madhya Pradesh on September 29-30, 2007 to investigate an incident involving Pardhis on September 9-11, 2007, and its aftermath.
I. The incident as reported in the media
On September 9, 2007, in the Multai Tehsil of Betul district, Pardhis from village Chothia allegedly raped and killed a Kunbi woman while they were in a drunken state. On September 11, angry local villagers set on fire all the houses in this village, destroying all the property and homes of the Pardhis.
The Pardhis were driven away by the local police to safety, and about 300 men, women and children were lodged in two camps run by the administration. Bodies of a Pardhi man and a woman were recovered from the Pardhidhana in Chothia after the incident of destruction of houses and ousting of the Pardhis. It was reported that there were no injury marks on either the man or the woman’s body, and that the man had died of natural causes and the woman of drowning in the well.
II. Background information
- The Pardhi community is a denotified, nomadic community of Madhya Pradesh. The term ‘denotified’ is the historical legacy of the British who unjustly notified as ‘criminal tribes’ more than 200 communities all over British India. This labelling under British law was questioned by Pandit Nehru after independence, at whose behest the Criminal Tribes Act and the notifications under it were annulled in 1952. The concerned communities, including Pardhis, then came to be labelled as Denotified Tribes.
- There are four Tehsils in Betul District of MP: Multai, Betul, Bhesdehi and Shahpur. The affected Pardhis belong to Multai Tehsil.
- In 16 districts of Madhya Pradesh Pardhis have Scheduled Caste status showing that their geographic spread in this state.
- The Pardhis in Multai Tehsil are not entitled to Scheduled Tribe status which is available to the Pardhis in the other three Tehsils of Betul and a few districts of MP.
- In Multai Tehsil of Betul district, the affected Pardhis are neither SC, nor ST nor OBC. This is the first case in the experience of the Commission where a deprived community can have three different statuses in the same State : SC, ST or the status of an ordinary citizen.
- Betul is a district of Madhya Pradesh whose borders are shared by the Amravati district of Maharashtra. In Betul, 40% of the population is tribal, 10% is SC.
- The population of Scheduled Caste Pardhis in MP according to the 2001 census, spread over 16 districts, is 15,100 people. The population of Scheduled Tribe Pardhi population spread over a few districts of Madhya Pradesh is a mere 1305 people. The total population of Madhya Pradesh is 1,395,175. Hence, the Pardhis, according to the 2001 census figures, form 1% of the total population of MP. Evidently, Pardhis are a very small minority in the state, but it is significant that they are present in almost all the districts of MP.
- There have been cases of similar violence against the Pardhis in 2003. The Commission was told by the SP, Betul that one “Deshmukh” had died, and as retaliation, three Pardhis were killed. However, no one has been convicted on either side, and trials are still going on.
- 11 families had been given pattas by the Chothia Gram Panchayat in 1995. Under the Indira Avas Yojana, pucca houses were also built in the Chothia Pardhidhana. One house, belonging to one Alsiya Pardhi, was built with his own money and was much more opulent than the other houses. A number of burnt houses were hutments. The entire Pardhi village has been burnt and with the help of a bulldozer, been razed to the ground.
III. That Pardhis of Chothia are a criminal community is rejected by the Commission
- The people’s representatives and the administration in Betul have been repeatedly labelling the Pardhi community a ‘criminal jati’ or a criminal tribe. This label was invented by the British and attached unjustly to the community.
- The victims in Chothia village have no serious criminal history. The CrPC sections under which Pardhis have been booked since 2001 in Multai, and quoted in bold by the Collector are all preventive viz. 110, 107, 116, 151. These are sections which apply to people LIKELY to disturb peace, or for obtaining “Security for good behaviour FROM HABITUAL OFFENDERS.” The practise by the police of treating all members of the denotified tribes as ‘habitual offenders’ is a most unfortunate one from the Commission’s point of view and is no evidence whatsoever about the criminality of those booked under these sections.
- The SP, Betul in his conversation with the Commission personnel mentioned that the lack of complaints in the Police Station regarding crimes by Pardhis could be explained by the villagers’ fear of retaliation from the Pardhis. The Commission did not find this explanation convincing.
- Incidents of petty crop theft by the Chothia Pardhis were narrated to the Commission by the SP, Betul, and also mentioned in the petitions by villagers. The SP, Betul, however, explicitly confirmed that there were “no serious crimes” committed by the Pardhis of the concerned village recently in the last few years.
- The SP, Betul further mentioned that regarding the complaints registered against the Pardhis from Chothia village, not a single Pardhi had been yet convicted and that ‘trials were still going on’.
- The Multai villagers’ version is that one Kunbi woman got robbed, raped and killed and that it was the Pardhis from the village Chothia who did it. However, the district administration itself told the Commission that Pardhis who committed the crime were not from the Chothia village in Multai, or even from Betul district. The SP, Betul told us that the culprits were from a Maharashtra village, across the border. He further confirmed that the people in Chothia village were not involved in the crime, and that four young men from Chothia village actually accompanied the Madhya Pradesh police and helped it to nab the alleged culprits from the Pardhi village ‘Morshi’ in Maharashtra.
- Inspite of the above listing of facts by the administration, there is a lot of confusion in the administration’s mind about the culpability of the Chothia village Pardhis just because one of the residents is related to the culprits who resided in Maharashtra.
The actual alleged culprits are in jail and should be given the punishment after following the due process of law. The Commission fails to understand how the entire Chothia village is to be penalised because of what two people from the same community but from another state have allegedly done. In fact, it is still to be proved that any Pardhis were at all involved in this incident from even across the border.
- The Commission was told that there was a gambling and illicit liquor brewing racket in Chothia run by a particular Pardhi. The Commission is of the view that for all crimes committed by the Pardhis, the punishment under law should be given to the individual culprits as it would be to any other citizen.
IV. Role of police, administration and elected representatives is strongly condemned by the Commission
- Following is the excerpt from one of the accounts received by the Commission, the validity of which can be confirmed by a video cassette which has been received by the Commission:
“On 11th September the incident started at around 8 a.m. when Sanjay Yadav Block Congress President of Multai and Raja Pawar Jila Panchayat Member (BJP) from Multai reached the scene with few hundreds of their supporters and started demolishing the Pardhi settlement and setting the houses on fire. As the mob swelled to thousands by around 10 am their activities also increased.
“Raja Pawar himself led the JCB machine brought by administration (but of which Raja Pawar is the owner) and demolished the pucca house of one Alsiya Pardhi. Between 10.30 to 11 am senior officers of the district and police administration reached the spot and were present throughout the incident till around 4 p.m. The list of the officers present is as under:
(1) M.L.Verma, Station In charge Multai P.S.
(2) D.K. Sakalle, S.D.O.P., Multai
(3) D.S. Brazoria, Additional S.P.
(4) V.R.Ingle, S.D.M., Multai
(5) Masood Akhtar, Upper Collector, Betul
(6)S.K. Hanotiya, Tahsildar, Multai
(7) Nayab Tahsildar, Karati, Multai
(8) Officer of Nagar Palika, Multai.
At around 2 p.m.
(9) Collector Arun Bhatt
(10) Superintendent of Police J.S. Sanswal also reached the spot and in their presence mob ‘justice’ continued.
“The list of people’s representatives who were present during the incident is
(1) Sukhdev Panse, Congress M.L.A., Masod
(2) Balaram Dongerdiye, Ex President of Multai Janpad
(3) Pramod Dhote, BJP, Mandal Mahamantri
(4) Hemant Sharma, Nagar Mandal President, BJP, Multai
(5) Raja Pawar, BJP, Jila Panchayat Member, Multai
(6) Sanjay Yadav Block Congress President of Multai.
(7) Dr Sunilam, Samajwadi Party M.L.A., Multai were all mute and silent spectators on the scene.”
The Commission has confirmed that the above people were indeed present during the destruction of the Pardhidhana on September 11, and are visible in the video received by the Commission.
- A petition dated 16.9.07, written after the incident under investigation, and signed by the Sarpanch, Gram Panchayat, Chothia explicitly charges the Pardhis of being rapists, murderers and dangerous criminals who should be ousted from the district as well as the state. (in khatarnaak balatkari, daaku, hatyaro ko Zilla badar, rajya badar kiya jaye).
There have also been remarks by the Revenue Minister Mr. Kamal Patel that the Pardhis will not be allowed to enter the state, let alone Betul district. MLA Mr. Shivaprasad Rathor has also declared that relocation of Pardhis in Betul district will be strongly opposed. Mr. Raja Pawar, Jilla Panchayat member, is reported to have said that he would have burnt the Pardhis alive along with their houses, if he could.
- In the light of the above, it is clear to the Commission that the police, administration and the elected representatives have played a reprehensible role in the entire incident.
- The Commission was told by the villagers in Multai that the Pardhis were so criminal that the villagers were forced to take law in their own hands. We were also told by the district collector and the SP that the people of Multai, being instigated by their elected representatives, are so angry with the Pardhis that the administration cannot guarantee the safety of the Pardhis if they return.
These statements can be interpreted as evidence that the police and the administration have failed in their duties to instil confidence in either the Multai villagers or the Pardhis.
- The Commission found that already as a snowballing effect of the culprits of violence in Chothia, the Paradhis in Datora village as also in Pisata have suffered destruction of their houses, a few kilometres away from Chothia village. The Commission met these displaced Pardhis in the camp in Bhopal.
The district police and administration has failed to also protect these Pardhis from Multai Tehsil who are not even from the so called ‘criminal’ Pardhidhana in Chothia.
V. Some serious issues raised by the Community need immediate investigation:
During the Commission’s visit, the affected Pardhis gave an appalling version of the incident which needs to be urgently investigated.
- The evening before the destruction of the Pardhi village took place, first the men folk and the children were shifted to Multai railway station by the police in vans. They were brutally forced into vans, and were not allowed to retrieve the cash and valuables which they could have carried before they left. They were told that their lives were in danger and that is why they were being hurried out by the police. From Multai railway station, people ‘ran away’ to either village in Maharashtra or for Bhopal to save their lives.
- A Pardhi couple was found dead by the police the day after the burning of the village. The daughter of the couple told the Commission that she was a witness to the murder of her parents along with other 7-8 people who were hiding in the fields. The daughter testified that her mother was raped by several people (whom she can identify) and then thrown into the well where she drowned. She also said that her father was suffocated to death by the same people.
- 11 women of the village were detained by the villagers, police and the politicians around 8 pm. These 11 women were raped. The women even named the rapists. Eight young women testified in front of the Commission that they had been raped on the evening before the houses were burnt, i.e. September 10, 2007. These women were allowed to join their families a few hours later. (The Commission was told that of the 11, one had been killed and thrown into a well, and the other two were not present and were in a different camp.)
- The daughter of the killed Pardhi couple also stated that her mother had on her person one lakh of rupees which the family had saved for her marriage which was looted by the people who raped and killed her. This money was accumulated by selling of the goats reared by the family. She further stated that she went to a number of police stations and personnel (in Barad, and in Bhopal to “Sarniwale”) to register her complaint, but they took no action.
- There were repeated complaints by the Pardhis in the Bhopal camp that all their belongings, consumer goods like TV and refrigerator etc. which some households possessed were looted before their houses were burnt.
- The Commission was also told that there were a large number of goats, chicken and cows. They were loaded onto lorries and taken away before the destruction of the village.
- On the day of the arrival of the Commission to Betul, the residents of Bhopal camp stated that a message was sent to Ratna, a gram panchayat member of Chothia that Pardhis should proceed to Betul where each will be given a compensation of Rs. 20,000 each. More than 100 Pardhis started for Betul along with Ratna to claim the compensation. However, mid way, they confronted a ‘chukka jaam’, a road block by angry villagers who had come to know of their entry to Betul and would have attacked them violently if the police and the administration had not intervened.
When the Commission enquired about this from the SP and the DM, they denied sending any such message. It needs to be investigated how and why such a situation was created once again that the lives of more than a hundred people were dangerously threatened.
VI The rehabilitation package proposed by Betul administration is rejected by the Commission
The Betul Collector handed over to the Commission a Rehabilitation Plan which is currently being discussed at a high level in the state according to latest news reports. This plan is to shift the entire Pardhi population of Multai Tehsil to another spot in the district, which has been already identified by the Collector. This proposal rests on the premises that the Pardhis are criminal ‘outsiders’, and that they need to be isolated from the rest of the population for their own safety as much as the villagers’ protection. The Commission has serious objections to the entire proposal on many counts:
- It is claimed by the villagers of Multai Tehsil in their petitions that the ‘Maharashtrian Pardhis’ from across the border are swelling the Chothia settlement and so they should be rehabilitated outside the district, even outside the state.
According to the information received by the Commission, the decline in percentage of tribal population in Betul district from 75% to 40% is the result of influx of more and more so called “outsiders”, and because a substantial number of non-Pardhi, non-tribal Maharashtrians, have settled in Betul. A large number of government jobs have also been given to the “Maharshtrians” in this district by the Madhya Pradesh government. In other words, the state of MP itself does not, constitutionally correctly, distinguish between the original inhabitants and the ones from Maharashtra and elsewhere. There seems to be no sanctity attached to being Madhya Pradeshi instead of being Maharshtrian in any way. Hence to repeatedly hear from the Multai villagers and elected representatives that the Pardhis in Chothia village were ‘Maharashtrians’ and so should not be allowed to come back to Chothia does not make sense to the Commission.
- Moreover, the Collector of Betul district mentions the following fact in the Report submitted by him: “There was a rape and murder of a ‘Mali’ woman (allegedly) by Pardhis of the settlement in Amravati Ghat in Madhya Pradesh in November, 2003. As retaliation, three Pardhi men were killed by the villagers and two Pardhi women injured. After this incident, the entire population of this Pardhi village shifted permanently to Chothia Pardhidhana. “
In other words, the Pardhidhana in Chothia has been growing with Pardhis from Madhya Pradesh itself.
- It is clear from the above point that even the authorities are aware that a number of Pardhis (who were not criminals but victims of collective violence) had taken shelter in the Chothia Pardhidhana. They have already been victims of collective violence and uprooting once. To shift them again, after they have been once again victims of mob violence, and especially when they have not even committed the crime for which the ‘retaliation’ is taking place, and just because they are Pardhis will be gross injustice.
- A number of victim families had permanent pattas. 11 of the Pardhis had pattas given to them by the administration in the year 1995. They have the papers to prove this, though some of them might have lost these papers in the fire and arson which destroyed their houses. Some of the houses have been built by the state under the Indira Avas Yojana. It will be unconstitutional to uproot them from their legitimate habitation.
- The concerned communities cannot not be segregated from the mainstream society in this way. As it is, they lead a marginalised existence wherever they are settled, on the outskirts of villages. Even the pattas which the administration gives them are seldom in the mainstream villages. Rehabilitating them in a segregated spot will merely validate the existing thinking and practices of the state and mainstream society members.
- The spot chosen by the Collector (as mentioned in his Rehabilitation Plan), is not just a segregated one but also where the Bangladeshi and Burmese refugees have been settled. The concerned Pardhis are Indian citizens. It is highly objectionable that the administration should treat them on par with refugees.
- This is caste based action on part of the administration. The Collector is not lifting out criminal elements from various castes and villages and planning to settle them away from mainstream society so as to ‘reform’ them. This programme is only for the Pardhis of Multai.
- Further, this programme involves not just the Pardhis of Chothia village but all the Pardhi settlements in Multai Tehsil. The Collector proposes that under the rehabilitation programme, apart from the Chothia village Pardhis, Pardhis from villages of Pisata, Datora, Sendurjana etc. will also be resettled. This is proposed to be done so that the entire Multai Tehsil can be made ‘free of the Pardhi problem”. (Rehabilitation Plan, p.12). This is a shocking statement and plan which the Commission rejects.
- It is proposed that there will be restriction on entry of outsiders, and exit of Pardhis from this settlement. (p.10) The settlement region itself which will be closed in (gherebandi ki jayegi), and posted with police and home guards. (p. 11). In other words, this will be an open jail. This reminds the Commission of the Criminal tribes settlements which were set up by the British and abolished in 1952.
- The Collector makes another atrocious proposal: That in case this ‘model’ of rehabilitation is successful, than it can set an example for not just the rest of the state of Madhya Pradesh, but the entire country for ‘all such communities’.
VII. Demands by the Commission
- The police and the district administration in Betul district need to be immediately overhauled. There is an urgent need for a change of the senior functionaries in Betul. The officers who were present during the incident without acting should also be also charged for connivance and gross dereliction of duty.
- The repeated attacks on these Pardhis makes us wonder whether Pardhis of this Tehsil have been singled out with the knowledge of their lack of SC/ST/OBC status in mind. Leaving the Pardhis of Mutai Tehsil out from the purview of the scheduled lists is a lapse on the part of the government, and the community should not be penalised for this lacuna which is merely a result of a technical error even according the Betul District Collector (Rehabilitation Plan, p.12). On 23.3.1996, the MP government had written to the Central Government to declare all Pardhis in the entire state of MP as STs. However, the Centre did not give permission for this.
Given the situation, and given that even the administration in MP deems the Pardhis of MP to be deserving of ST status, the Pardhis of Chothia village should be immediately given the compensation and other rehabilitative facilities which are given to SC/ST. The special powers which the Chief Minister has can ensure that they are treated, for the purposes or this and any other atrocity, as SCs or STs of Madhya Pradesh.
- The Commission got the impression that left to themselves, the villagers are less likely to be provoked to violence. Elected representatives who are inciting mob violence should be treated as criminals. The Ministers, MLAs and other people’s representatives who are openly doing this should be immediately booked as anti social and criminal elements.
It is unconstitutional on the part of the people’s representatives to demand ousting of the Pardhis from their homes or any region. To publically proclaim that Pardhis will not be allowed to enter the district or even the state, or that they might be killed if they return are criminal acts and should be booked under laws which prohibit hate speech or disturbing public peace, order and harmony between different communities.
- The word ‘communal’ comes from the word community. In our view, this is a case of communal disturbance in the area and the same laws and machinery which is available to the administration to prevent breach of peace and loss of life under communal disturbances should be urgently applied here.
- The Commission has learnt that cases under certain IPC sections have been registered against the people’s representatives in Multai. These also need to be followed up systematically under different sections.
- According to the latest reports in the local media, in a meeting with Revenue Minister Sh. Kamal Patel, in which all the district officials were present including the Collector, SP, MLAs, MP, Panchyat President , cancellation of the pattas held by Pardhis in the Pardhidhana in Chothia village was discussed. It is also being discussed as to how the Pardhis can be settled outside Betul District.
Cancelling of pattas given to the Pardhis will be unconstitutional. The victimised Pardhis want to be re-settled in their original spot in Multai, and should be settled in the same place from which they have been ousted forcefully.
- Some of the elected representatives have committed serious criminal and unconstitutional acts both in speech and in deed, and the Commission demands that immediate, stringent, legal action be taken against district officials for connivance, and people’s representatives for instigating hatred and violence.
- In the name of ‘people’s anger’ (the administration repeatedly used this term as an ‘explanation’ for the violence on Pardhis in Multai), or some version of ‘vigilante justice’, the administration cannot shrug off its duty to protect the Pardhis if they return to Chothia. The Commission’s categorical position is that it is the district administration’s responsibility to make sure that all its citizens are secure and safe.
Since the police administration has failed to protect them, other armed forces at the disposal of the state administration (the same as in cases of serious rioting or communal disturbance) should be used to protect them till normalcy returns. This should be done at the same time as those who are inciting violence are sternly dealt with under laws which prohibit inciting one community against another.
- According to the administration as well as the Pardhi community, there have been similar cases of killing of Pardhis in the last 3-4 years in Betul district. Several Pardhi women were allegedly burnt alive in one incident, and some Pardhi men allegedly killed in another. No one has been convicted for these crimes. The Commission was told that in the earlier incidents of violence against Pardhi too, the people’s representatives had played an active role.
The Commission demands that immediate investigation be carried out regarding the criminal history of all elected representatives who have been instigators to violence against Pardhis in this district.
- A changed administration machinery should take immediate steps for initiating positive dialogue with both sides to instil confidence on both sides. Without the instigating role of the elected officials, villagers may be quite open to such dialogue.
- For each rape/murder in the area — ostensibly committed by the Pardhis, and for which there have been no convictions of any Pardhis – the Pardhi community pays heavily by their women getting raped and both men and women getting killed. Still, the impression which the villagers and even officials in the administration gave the Commission is that it is the villagers who are the victims. This is especially ironic as in his written Report, the Collector specifically calls both the earlier and the recent incidents in Betul district as cases of criminal collective injustice (aapradhic samudayik anyaya) against the Pradhis. This ambivalence in the mind of the administration about who are the victims and who are the criminals seems to be the result of political pressure exerted on district officials. The Commission strongly rejects a public discourse in which the Pardhi victims are being labelled as criminals by the administration or the elected representatives.
- The Pardhis of Chothia deserve the protection of the state as they belong to a denotified, nomadic community which has been historically wronged in multiple ways, and continue to be an acutely marginalised minority group in Madhya Pradesh. Punishment to the perpetrators of violence on the Pardhis in Betul, and their relocation in their original place of residence is critically important if this incident is not to snowball into a very serious situation in Madhya Pradesh. Strong action on part of the Madhya Pradesh government will not just send out a clear message to the elected representatives, the civil society and the country at large, but also help immensely to instil confidence amongst the denotified and nomadic communities of India who are noting the future implications of this alarming incident with great apprehension. Under the circumstances, the Commission demands that an immediate CBI enquiry be ordered to investigate this serious incident.
Sh. Balakrishna Renke Sh. Laxmibhai Patni Dr. Meena Radhakrishna
Chairman Member Director (Research)
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