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Attack over ad for upper caste sweeper

An NGO's job advertisement seeking a preferably upper caste sweeper-cleaner has triggered two days of vandalism and threats by people who found it "insulting", prompting its director to go into hiding.

By Our Special Correspondent
  • Published 24.06.16
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Ahmedabad, June 23: An NGO's job advertisement seeking a preferably upper caste sweeper-cleaner has triggered two days of vandalism and threats by people who found it "insulting", prompting its director to go into hiding.

The Ahmedabad-based Human Development and Research Centre, which works for Dalit and tribal rights, last night apologised for any "hurt sentiments" although its members clarified that the ad was meant to promote social equality.

NGO secretary Jimmy Dabhi expressed surprise at the timing of the June 21 and 22 attacks, saying the ad had been put on the notice board sometime in April and removed two weeks later. None had applied and no one had protested at the time, he said.

Some people, however, uploaded pictures of the ad on the Internet recently. Written in Gujarati, it seeks a safai karmchari who would clean the office, courtyard and toilets and says that "candidates from the general category -Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, Patels, Jains, Syrian Christians, Parsis, Pathans and Muslims - would get first preference".

On Tuesday evening, a group of 25-30 people stormed the NGO's office inside the St Xavier's College compound, shouted slogans against the "derogatory" ad and broke windowpanes and flowerpots, Dabhi said. The NGO collaborates with the Church-run St Xavier's Non-Formal Education Society.

A PTI report said the protesters were from little-known outfits such as the Rajput Shaurya Foundation, Yuva Shakti Sangathan and the Sunni Avami Forum.

Four policemen were deployed outside the office yesterday following a request for protection from the director of the NGO, Prasad Chacko, but it seemed to have little effect.

Last evening, four young men claiming to be Brahmins and Kshatriyas arrived and created a din before the police guards, threatening to thrash the director and demanding to meet him, saying they had come to apply for the job.

Sensing trouble, the St Xavier's authorities asked the NGO to tender an unconditional apology to defuse the situation.

Dabhi issued a statement last night, saying: "We had no intention of hurting the sentiments of any religion, caste or community. If anybody is hurt we are genuinely sorry. We will ensure this is not repeated in future."

Govind Parmar, a lawyer associated with the NGO, said the ad was meant to make a point about equality.

"Why should only Scheduled Caste people do certain jobs? Surely, any needy person can apply?" he said.

Dabhi too said: "We wanted to start some positive action to end discrimination and help people realise that this particular profession is not meant for only Dalits."

The NGO has decided not to lodge an FIR. A group of Dalit activists have gathered to guard the office and express solidarity for the NGO's "bold and reformative initiative".

Chacko, however, has disappeared from public view. "The director is hiding because we want to protect our staff," Dabhi said.

"We don't want to take any chances because these people had threatened the director in the presence of police."

A delegation from various NGOs met Ahmedabad collector Avantika Singh today, defended the ad and sought the administration's help, PTI reported.

"We initiated the recruitment with an aim to give impetus to the Clean India campaign and ensure social equality," a memorandum they handed Singh said.