5 Feb 2002
Sanjay K Singh in New Delhi
The Statesman, 5 Feb, 2002
Feb. 4. - The worst of caste prejudice was demonstrated at a programme, attended, among others, by Mr LK Advani, in Delhi.
On 1 February, organisers of a programme in the Vasant Kunj Institutional Area forced ten families to leave their homes at 5 a.m. because their presence would have "polluted" the atmosphere at a havan. They belong to the Jusadh caste (originally from Mahoba area in Uttar Pradesh).
Mr Advani attended the havan and later laid the foundation stone for the Institute of Vedic Studies and Social Services.
The organisers, Sri Rama Vitthal Shikshana Sewa Samiti and Sudesh Foundation, who placed advertisements on newspapers announcing the function, could not be contacted.
The staff in Mr Advani's office said they did not have their contact numbers or their addresses. Asked about the incident, the minister's private secretary, Mr Rajeev Ishwar, said he was not aware of it. About the organisers, he said: "They were somewhere from south and we don't have their records. We get 700 invitations daily, we can't keep records of all of them."
The organisers told the families, who were unceremoniously dragged out of their homes and asked to shift to a forest area 300 metres away, that their presence at the havan venue will be inauspicious.
"Meri taang tooti hui hai aur mujhe phir bhi jaane ko kaha kyonki hum jusadh hain. Bade log to dus baje aaye lekin hamen subah paanchch baje hi thhannd mein bhaga diya (I have a broken leg but they told me to leave because I belong to Jusadh caste. Though the VIPs came at 10 a.m., we were forced to shift at 5 a.m. when it was freezing cold)," said 55-year-old Jamuni Devi.
The organisers and some security personnel - the families could not identify from which agency the latter were - told the 45 odd people belonging to the ten families to leave. "Our pleas that many of the children were suffering from cough and cold and other illnesses were completely ignored," said one of them. They were told not to return till "late evening."
The organisers put up eight-feet high barricades around their jhuggis to conceal their existence. "They put up tents to conceal our homes, so how would it have mattered if we had stayed on? The minister's security could not have been the reason because then they would have told us in advance and asked us to leave the previous day," said one resident.
Another said an organiser had told him that his presence at the venue of such a function will be nothing short of an ill omen.