People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 18

May 02, 2010

Inhuman attacks on Dalits in Haryana


G Mamatha


IT needs a heart to understand what discrimination is � its pain and the anger; discrimination of any kind � of weak by the strong, of dalits by the upper castes or of the poor by the rich. Otherwise, it becomes 'one more case', a 'number in the piling statistics' in the rich history of our country. As one does not know when the numbers had started (is it Sambhuka or Ekalavya), so is one unaware if they would end in the near future of the country that had just celebrated 60 years of its constitutional history. Of course, one can be certain that this is not going to be the last in the present social set-up.

Mirchpur Village in Hisar district of Haryana which is just at a 4 hours journey from New Delhi, witnessed a gory incident on April 21 � just seven days after we 'celebrated' the 120th birth anniversary of Babasaheb Ambedkar. All the richly phrased speeches of the 'powerful and sundry' who had garlanded the statues and 'extolled' the virtues of our constitutional writer did not prevent a group of around 400 Jats from attacking the Balmiki dalits and burn their houses in a planned mayhem that continued for four hours. The 'icing on the cake' is the mute presence of the upholders of our constitution, the police, when this gruesome rape of the constitution was taking place. Suman, an 18 year old polio-stricken Class XII student was burnt to death and her ailing father, 70 year old Tara Chand suffered 90 per cent burns as he made desperate efforts to save her and died in a nearby government hospital.

A team led by Sushmita Baori, CPI(M) MP from West Bengal and comprising of Ram Avtar, Haryana state president of the All India Agricultural Workers� Union, Asha from the All India Democratic Women�s Organisation, Sahiram from Lok Lehar and G Mamatha from People�s Democracy visited the Mirchpur village. Amar Chauhan, Suman�s brother, a graduate doing B.Ed from Jind 'Jat' College was the only member of the family present in the village. The rest of the members fled away to Hisar in fear of further attacks. Many panic-stricken dalit residents of the village have fled with meagre belongings on the night of the incident and many others shifted the next morning. Several dalit families have shifted their women and children to their relatives' homes in nearby villages. The police 'saw' this 'migration' but hardly made efforts to restore the faith and build confidence among the people.

Mirchpur in Hansi sub-division of Hisar district has around 300 Balmiki families. Many of the dalits are educated and are employed. They are living in pucca houses. The dominant Jats are unable to bear this 'improved' economic status of dalits. They refuse to see them as 'equals' and were trying to impose the age-old caste oppression on them. The dalits, educated and relatively better-off, are no longer ready to be treated in an insulting manner as before because of the growing consciousness and assertion of their rights. They tried to resist the oppression and as a result, the Mirchpur incident happened. For a better understanding let us take another example. In the nearby Sulchani village, dalits own some land and as a result are able to perform certain marriage ceremonies like the bridegroom coming on a horse. This for the upper castes in the region is 'sacrilegious' and is not allowed anywhere else in Haryana. This hurts the 'pride' of the upper castes in the region.

On April 19, some Jat youth in an inebriated condition were passing through the dalit colony in Mirchpur and hit a barking dog belonging to a Balmiki. A minor scuffle ensued. Immediately after the incident, fearing an attack from the upper castes, the dalits informed the police about a possible attack and asked for security. The next day, the Jat leaders sent a message to the elders of Balmiki community to appear before them and apologise. Birbhan and Karan Singh, a Panch, went to the Jats as asked for, but both of them were beaten up very badly. They were hospitalised. The Balmikis again informed the police, but to no avail.

On April 21 morning a planned savage attack was unleashed on the Balmikis, in the presence of police, and more so with the active encouragement of the Station House Officer of the Narnaund Police Station, Vinod Kajal and the village tahsildar. A group of around 400 consisting mainly of youth ranging from 15- 25 years of age and also women led this deadly assault. They put dry fodder in an open place adjacent to Tara Chand�s room and lit it up, which was the first to be burnt. Then they looted kerosene from a very nearby ration depot, belonging to Kuldip, a Balmiki, and used it to torch the homes belonging to the Balmikis. This 'dance of death' continued for about four hours as the police did not come to the rescue of the dalits being attacked. The fleeing Balmikis were abused castigating their caste and attacked with arms, lathis, stones and bricks. Grain stored in the homes was burnt up. Chander Singh�s family was making arrangements for the marriage of his daughter who was to get married shortly. The new clothes were burnt and the jewellery looted. Two people were killed and 26 persons seriously injured in the attack. 18 homes were gutted in fire and 14 homes were badly damaged in the arson. �My daughter wanted to do MA, B Ed. She was a bright student. We were also making preparations for her marriage. Suman pleaded that she cannot run. But she was burnt. She suffered hell for half an hour before passing away,� recounts Kamala, the mother of the dead girl.

So far 43 people have been booked under 14 sections of the IPC including Section 302 and the SC, ST Prevention of Atrocities Act and 31 people have been arrested. Still a large number of accused are scot-free, at large. �The police SHO is related to the Jats. He did not take any action. He was standing with the Jats watching the violence perpetrated on the Balmikis,� said Kailasho. The state government has remained completely insensitive to the entire issue. The chief minister has not condemned the incident, neither did he visit the victims.

Around 150 members with women and children fled from the village to Hisar in fear. They walked all the way to Hisar covering a distance of about 35 kilometres in ten hours. When the team visited them, fear was still lurking in their faces. The kids were so traumatised that they still kept murmuring, 'hai Jat aa gayen' (Oh! Jats have come again). Jaswant says, �I can no longer send my daughter to the school as it is located in the centre of the Jat area. I fear for her life.� Jagpal says, �I had to join my sister for IIT coaching in Delhi. She got 80 per cent of marks in the X class exam. But because of this attack, she is so traumatised that I cannot join her in the coaching centre. Her future has been ruined.�

Mirchpur has a history of caste violence. In 1997, dalits were subjected to social boycott for demanding fair wages for agricultural work. Houses belonging to Chamar community were vandalised. Last year too, two dalit women were paraded naked in the village. In spite of this 'chequered' history, the administration kept mum and this shows the active connivance of some officials in the administration. The khap panchayat comprising 45 villages met after the incident and issued a veiled threat that if the cases are not withdrawn, fresh attacks would be launched on the dalits. The state administration is totally complacent about this development. When the issue was raised with the Superintendent of Police, Subhash Yadav and the Deputy Commissioner of Hisar, O P Sheoron, they did not take the issue seriously. Naturally, neither confidence building measures nor restoration of peace were the priorities of the administration. For the administration the incident appears to be one more case of statistics. It lacks a heart.

Alas, many amongst us lack the heart to understand the pain and anger of discrimination, what to speak about the administration in the thoroughly caste-ridden state like Haryana. Do you have it? Do you feel the discrimination? Does your heart boil in rage? If it does, join the fight against discriminations of all sorts. We need to be humans to join this fight.