(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
July 18, 2010
appearing in some of the papers that the elopement of an upper caste
Preeti, from Maicha village with a boy Sanjay belonging to a scheduled
from the neighbouring village of Dhaula had given rise to a local
calling for abduction of girls from Dhaula village in retaliation if
girl was not sent back to her house, an AIDWA delegation visited the
of Dhaula and Maicha situated on the outskirts of Delhi, beyond Greater
on July 8th, 2010. The team comprised AIDWA general secretary Sudha
Sundararaman, assistant secretary Ashalata, CEC member Asha Sharma, and
by Brinda Karat, Rajya Sabha MP from the CPI(M). Other members of the
delegation included Delhi CPI(M) leaders Gangeshwar and
The delegation had a detailed discussion with the SDM, Vishal Singh. It met Sanjay’s parents, Kanchi and Bharpai, responsible and senior members of the Dhaula village, mainly from the SC community, and also met Preeti’s parents and her family members including her brother and sister-in-law in their home in Maicha village. The delegation also spoke to police officials.
The main events and the delegation’s findings are as follows
the authorities as well as the family members, the delegation learned
boy Sanjay, aged around 23 years, and the girl Preeti, aged 20 years,
classmates and later joined the
This was confirmed by relatives of the girl whom the delegation met in Maicha village. They told the delegation that the said girl, Preeti, made a trip to Kakod village to visit her uncle on June 24. Giving the family an excuse of getting some clothes, stitched she left the house. According to Preeti’s sister-in-law, she refused to let anyone accompany her. The relatives concluded, in retrospect, that the couple had already made the plan to elope.
This is an important point as it shows that there is no credibility in the charge being made against the boy Sanjay of forcible abduction and kidnapping. It appears that it was a consensual and voluntary action on the part of the young couple, both of whom were adults. In such cases, there is absolutely no scope for criminal prosecution or filing any FIR against the boy or his family members. At present, according to the police “there is pressure on us to register a case.” This must be firmly rejected.
Subsequent to this incident, the father of the boy, Kanchi, was arrested by the police, kept in custody for four days and intimidated to reveal their location. He informed the police that he had no idea where the couple were. Yet they kept him in custody for four days, which is totally illegal. However, such is the vulnerability of the family that even when Kanchi spoke to the delegation he was very hesitant to speak against his custody, only mentioning that the police had kept him for four days for “inquiries.” Mukesh is the husband of the woman sarpanch who was not present as she was reportedly unwell. Mukesh too is a member of the scheduled caste. While confirming that Kanchi was kept in illegal detention for four days, he was at pains to minimise it as they are afraid of further police action. It is condemnable and unacceptable that the police should take such an action, revealing a caste bias against the scheduled caste family. It is therefore necessary to inquire into this illegal detention and take appropriate action against those responsible.
Kanchi was released only so that the “responsibility” of finding the couple could be imposed on him. Soon after his release he was summoned by a panchayat called by the non-scheduled castes of Maicha village, who had come in a big group to Dhaula on July 29. There he was given an ultimatum to find the couple in four days time.
Clearly, this should not have been allowed by the administration but there was no intervention. The delegation was deeply disturbed to find how such a decision has destituted the family. Kanchi had to hire several cars and pay for search parties. The entire expenses over several days of the “search” came to 1.5 lakh rupees. He had to mortgage his small landholding of 2 bighas to get the loans. In addition, he sold his milch animal for around 20,000 rupees. These details show how a dalit family suffers several times over, due to bias and prejudice.
In spite of all his efforts, he could not trace the couple.
When the couple could not be found, the second panchayat was called on July 4. Once again the police were absent. In the presence of the scheduled caste people of Dhaula village, a large group from Maicha village made an open threat that unless Preeti was found and produced they would take a girl from the village in retaliation. To send the message that they meant business, some people abducted an SC boy who was on his way to work through Maicha village. He was later released.
However, this induced a feeling of terror in the entire scheduled caste community. Young women were sent away from the village to ensure their safety and security. Although the administration says that the women are returning, the delegation could meet only elderly women in the village who expressed fears about the security of their daughters and daughters-in-law. Many of the scheduled castes, mainly daily workers or those employed in nearby factories, had stopped going to work. This is because they would have to pass through Maicha village, which they were afraid to do so. Thus the entire community got caught in this vicious casteist environment and were punished for belonging to a scheduled caste. The deprivation of livelihood has put added pressure on the scheduled caste community. The SCs in Dhaula live in daily fear of attacks, and there is a feeling of insecurity.
Following these developments, an FIR under Sections 147, 506 and 310 as well as under the SC/ ST Act against unknown persons has been registered. Apparently, some names have been given to the police. The circle inspector, Ambesh Chandra Tyagi, said that protection was being given to the village, but the arrests could not be made because the identity of the accused was not given.
However, subsequently, perhaps on the intervention of the SDM, the administration had taken certain measures to ensure protection to the dalit families by the posting the security forces in their village. Frequent visits were made by the SDM to instil confidence. These are positive measures which were appreciated by the villagers. However, if such measures had been taken in the beginning, perhaps the scheduled caste families could have been saved their present plight.
It is necessary now for the administration to move firmly to strengthen the security of scheduled caste families so that their women could return if they wish to do so.
The delegation met the girl’s parents and other family members. It was striking that they showed no signs of aggression or hostility but were grieving that their daughter should have eloped. They stated repeatedly that they did not want the matter to become public but that the “entire village had reacted and said that it was an insult to their pride and izzat (prestige, honour).” On further enquiries, others told the delegation that it was an aggressive younger group of members of another caste community, quite dominant in the area, who were demanding “some punishment.” On the face of it, it would appear that the girl’s parents are also caught up in an environment created by some trouble-makers. However, the delegation could not meet the larger community in Maicha village.
It is necessary for the administration to single out the trouble-makers and take swift action against them while counselling the girl’s family and maintaining contact with them.
In the context of the increasing number of crime cases linked to so-called “honour,” it is necessary for the administration to maintain its vigilance and ensure protection to the dalit community. It is no doubt a very sensitive issue which needs to be dealt with carefully. The later actions of the administration, including maintaining contact with the village on a regular basis, were in the right direction. The couple are both adults, and are well within their rights to choose their partners. The family of the boy is not answerable for his actions, and should not be targeted and punished for something that they have no control over.
Further, because the girl is from an upper caste and the boy from a scheduled caste, the whole of the latter community is being subjected to harassment. While the parents of the girl must be helped through counselling, trouble-makers must be issued a stern warning by the administration and action taken if they persist in doling out their threats. The public threats issued by the so-called panchayat of kidnapping girls from the SC community is illegal and appropriate action should be taken against those involved.
Under the provisions of the SC Act, it is possible for the administration to ensure that the land mortgaged by Kanchi to meet the expenses forced upon him to “find” the couple is returned to him. The government should intervene and make sure that a peaceful atmosphere is restored, and the residents of Dhaula village are able to go about their daily lives and earn their livelihood without fear of violence.