Hyderabad: Participants of a moot on “upcoming elections and representation of scheduled castes in the assemblies” here demanded of the political parties to nominate at least one representative of scheduled castes on reserved seats for minorities and allot at least one seat to the representatives on the general seats to ensure that the marginalized Dalit community reaches to the assemblies.
They declared that scheduled castes would not vote in favour of the parties, which did not nominate scheduled caste representatives on reserved seats and scheduled caste women on seats reserved for women.
The consultation hosted by Pakistan Dalit Solidarity Network PDSN, at Hyderabad Press Club on Wednesday was attended by scheduled castes’ representatives, civil society members and political and social activists. They adopted a unanimous resolution asking the political parties to ensure Dalit representation in the parliament.
Zulfiqar Shah, general secretary of PDSN said now when the process of electoral activities have started and political parties are giving tickets and introducing their candidates, they should realize that scheduled caste voice should be in the assemblies.
He said now the saner elements in Sind should see the changing scenario in which discrimination is increasing against these marginalized communities, especially Dalits. For instance, he said the reports of attack, baton charging and torture on students in Sind University while they came to celebrating Holi. It was the reflection of overall approach of the society towards these marginalized people.
Shah said that whatever has been stated in the census statistics, the number of Dalits runs in several millions and have sizeable votes in a number of constituencies particularly in lower Sind. Their vote is decisive and we need to use it wisely.
The moot was also attended by those candidates of scheduled castes, who have applied for tickets in several parties and are waiting for response.
Gianchand, a former legislator, said specifically in Umerkot, Mirpurkhas and Tharparkar districts scheduled caste votes are around 50 percent. But since there is no realization by political parties their status is not being recognized. That is why there is no proper representation of scheduled castes in Assemblies. He said those castes called scheduled are marginalized socially and economically. In fact some legislators were given chance to reach in assemblies in the past to raise voice of their communities, there is different approach of certain political leaders.
Pirbhulal Satiani depicted the situation in which these marginalized people are living, especially, those who are peasants and living under pressure socially and being treated cruelly by landlords and village chieftains. He said there were funds allocated obviously for the development of minority people but then it was pronounced that such funds have lapsed. The funds were not utilized purposefully. “To whom we should ask that why these people are being treated like that,” he questioned.
He said the total population of Hindu minority is around three million in which scheduled caste people claim 85 percent in that population, who are marginalized at every level, socially, economically. They do not have voice in the important forums like assemblies.
The other speakers said that Pakistani scheduled castes equally known as Dalit’s in India and other countries are said to have been marginalized section of the society and in Pakistan they are living in poor conditions. If the state of Pakistan wants them to be respectable citizens then their participation in parliament is very important, where they can raise voice.
Zulfiqar Halepoto of Sind Democratic Forum SDF advised Dalit leaders to initiate lobbying with political parties for accommodating on reserved seats, because it is too late and at this moment the political parties have almost pushed these people backward and nobody has been given ticket. This shows how they are vulnerable and what the saner elements of the society should think.
While expressing disappointment on the track record of the political parties in giving representation to scheduled castes on reserve seats and general seats, they said that it is ironic that the last National Assembly had only one scheduled caste members where three provincial assemblies Sind, Baluchistan, KP and Punjab had no schooled caste representative at all. Similarly, Pakistan’s upper house Senate also does not have any Dalit member. These facts are eye opener for political parties and their leaders who talk about equality and claim to be representatives of marginalized communities. No political parties has given importance to scheduled castes representation while deciding on awarding party tickets during all previous general elections.
They said that though all parties claim gender sensitive but it’s ironic to note that no party nominated a scheduled caste woman on seats reserved for women in last general elections. “If you believe in equality, you have to give representation to Dalit women as well.”
Those who spoke on the occasion include Dr Ashothama Lohano, Coordinator HRCP Sind Taskforce, Mustafa Meerani of Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum PFF, Dr Hyder Malokhani of Green Rural Development Organisation GRDO, Bhagwani, development sector activist from Tharparkar, Punhal Sario of Hari Porhyat Council, Dayal Menghwar, Walji Kolhi, honorary convener of PDSN, Devsi Menghwar from Badin, Ramesh Kumar Gupta from Thano Bola Khan, Ishaq Mangrio, Jabbar Bhatti, Ishaq Soomro and others.