“A mob burst on the scene as night fell. Equipped with hockey sticks, bricks, stones, firearms and crude bombs it prepared for an assault.
“‘You are Harijans,’ it yelled. ‘You have no right to read and write. Your work is to mend shoes and chappals. We will keep you as servants in our houses. Your ancestors did the same work. You leave the hostel or else there will be a massacre.’ This is part of a police statement given by a Dalit student residing in the Bhimrao Ambedkar Welfare Hostel of Patna University (PU) facility.
“Last week, the hostel witnessed fierce caste violence in which three Dalit students were injured.
“‘Around 30 men came shouting Brahmeshwar Mukhiya zindabad, Mukhiya amar rahe [Long live the Mukhiya] and Ambedkar ko phuk do [Destroy Ambedkar]. They stood outside the hostel and started throwing stones. They dragged and beat up a student. Firing shots and bombs rent the air. We ran inside the hostel. All we had to defend against the armed attack were brick pieces used to support the cots in our room,’ Satyaprakash, a student at the Ambedkar hostel, told The Hindu.
“‘Mukhiya’ refers to the slain Ranvir Sena chief Brahmeshwar Singh.
“Located in Patna’s ‘coaching district’, the hostel forms part of the Saidpur hostel campus of PU. Facing it is a cluster of five hostels for general category students, collectively called the ‘Saidpur hostel’, which has gained notoriety over the years for nurturing hooligans and becoming a virtual den of anti-socials from the landowning Bhumihar caste, particularly from the badlands of Jehanabad district. [...]
“A common power grid that supplies electricity to the entire neighbourhood is one of the key triggers for such attacks, as it was last week.
“‘That evening, there was a power cut at the Ambedkar hostel, but not at the Saidpur general hostel. The Ambedkar students went to the electricity office, situated on the same campus, to take stock of the mater. Seeing them, the Saidpur boys hurtled down and started hurling caste abuses, such as “Harijans,” “dusadhs” and “chamars” [all lower caste names],’ as per another police statement of a student.
‘When we asked for power supply, they said, “Have you ever seen light in your life?”’ Satyaprakash recalled.
“The official sources said, in a situation where the Ambedkar hostel had power and Saidpur hostel did not, there was immense pressure on electricity officials to cut the supply to the Ambedkar hostel. ‘Seeing an equal distribution of facilities stokes the caste jealousies of the Saidpur hostellers. Many times fights over power supply take the form of caste clashes,’ an official source said.
“‘There have been times,’ said a general student, ‘when the whole area is plunged into darkness, but only the Saidpur hostel is lit.’ Disconnecting water supply to the Ambedkar hostel is another means of showing caste dominance. The tap dries up at 9 a.m. and its water is dirty. At any given point of time, a few students suffer from jaundice.
“At the heart of the matter, said students, lies plain caste hatred, ‘a determined effort to display caste superiority.’”