A group of people vandalised the office of Human Development and Resource Centre (HDRC), which is an NGO run by St. Xavier’s Non-Formal Education Society, alleging that an advertisement which had been published by the organisation is an insult to some communities.
HDRC, formerly Behavioral Science Centre, situated on the St Xavier’s College campus, Ahmedabad had notified a vacancy on their notice board, seeking suitable candidates for the post of a sanitation worker. The job entailed cleaning the office, courtyard, bathroom and toilet. The notification said ‘preference’ would be given to the ‘unreserved category’.
The job notification had been displayed on the NGO’s notice board from 6 April. It had listed the ‘upper castes’- Brahmin, Kshatriya, Baniya, Patel, Sayyid (A Muslim upper caste), Syrian Christians (An elite Christian group from Kerala), Parsis- who would be preferred for the job.
The job notification invoked the ire of some upper caste groups and a group of people allegedly affiliated to Sanghparivar vandalised the NGO’s office, breaking the window panes and pots.
Members of various organisations like Brahmo Samaj, Lok Seva Raskshak Samiti, Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), Yuva Shakti Saghathan(YSS),Rajput Shaurya Foundation etc were allegedly involved in the attack.
The police have registered an FIR against Prasad Chacko, the Director, HDRC for inciting communal and caste unrest, under section 153A of the IPC. Chacko is a popular human rights activist in Gujarat, who works for the betterment of the oppressed communities.
“The reaction of the Sangh Parivar forces to our advertisement only reiterates the casteist mindset that prevails in society. The aggressive reaction by them was ‘do you expect us savarnas (upper caste) to clean toilets?’. I said, ‘of course, all communities need to start doing it.’ For centuries the Dalit communities have been forced to do it. Now it is the time that all savarna communities realise their criminal complicity in perpetuating this inhuman casteist practice. So I feel that it is our social responsibility to invite savarnas also to engage in this occupation,” said Chacko.
Several community leaders however disagreed with Chacko and the controversial job notification.
” The NGO must sack those who are responsible for the inflammatory act. Our reaction will not be peaceful in a Gandhian way,” said YSS president Ronaksingh Gohel.
Sunni Awami Forum has slapped a legal notice on the NGO alleging that it was a deliberate act of the Christian missionaries to denigrate the status of the ‘Sayyid’, by inviting them for cleaning jobs.
“I have named savarna communities from all religious groups. Muslim groups have condemned me saying it is a conspiracy of Christian missionaries to insult the Sayyids who are descendants of the Prophet. Today the president of the Syro-Malabar (Syrian Catholics in Gujarat) group has sent me a mail asking for an explanation why Syrian Christians have been mentioned in the advertisement,” Chacko said.
Rights activists across the country have however come out in support of Chacko. They have demanded an immediate withdrawal of the charges slapped on HDRC and its director.
“It is unfortunate to see that an advertisement to invite candidates from the general category for a sweeping job has turned into a crime and an FIR has been lodged against HDRC Director. We want to know on what basis, police have resorted to such a tactic, it only shows their own complicity in it,” said a statement released by a group of activists which includes Medha Patkar of Narmada Bachao Andolan,Prafulla Samantara of Lok Shakti Abhiyan, Lingraj Azad of Samajwadi Jan Parishad etc.