“A mob of over 60 men and women — all from the dominant Maratha caste — allegedly attacked the Dalit basti of Rajwada in Shevge Dang village, Nashik district, on Sunday, causing serious head injuries to 13 men. [...]
“According to the villagers, the attackers came in tractors, carrying sickles, knives, bricks and boulders. They alleged that their houses were damaged and photographs of B R Ambedkar were desecrated.
“According to reports, the fight ensued over a small accident, when a tempo (auto rickshaw) owned by a person belonging to the Maratha caste rammed into a tree on October 15, injuring several persons travelling in it, including a 50-year-old Dalit woman Lata Bharit.”
“‘They are free and we are trapped,’ says a resident, as many villagers share her fear that they may be targeted again
Sunaina Devi, who lost seven family members in the massacre
“On Wednesday night, Baudh Paswan kept tossing and turning in bed, his appetite and sleep gone.
“‘I feel they will come back again,’ he murmured. As they did on the night of December 1, 1997 and began a killing spree. Armed with firearms and swords, members of the Ranvir Sena, militia of the Bhumihar landlords, slaughtered 58 Dalits, including 27 women and 16 children.
“On Wednesday, the Patna High Court acquitted all the 26 accused, setting aside the lower court’s verdict that awarded the death sentence to 16 and life imprisonment to the other 10.
“‘I do not have the strength to fight anymore. After 58 murders, no one is guilty. The courts are theirs, the government is theirs, the lathi [the baton of power] is theirs. The poor have nothing. This is injustice,’ Paswan said, hobbling around on his walking stick. He lost seven of his family members. Some more died later, of grief.
“The sense of victory felt by the Dalit hamlet after the conviction by the trial court has vanished. Now there lurks a threat. Will the doors be broken open again? Will the houses be invaded?
“Haunted by this fear, Sunaina Devi breaks down. ‘Jiska ghar me itna parivar mara hai vo kaise himmat rakhega? [How will the family that has lost so many members find strength?] So many were killed and nothing happened. Now, they [the upper caste] are threatening us, saying they would barge into our houses and beat us with sticks as nothing has happened to them. Since yesterday, sweets have been distributed in the upper caste quarters and firecrackers have gone off. The High Court let them off and left us trapped. We have lost all hope.’
“House after house shares her unease. ‘The whole country knows who killed those 58 people. Only the courts don’t know,’ said Pramila Devi, who lost three women relatives. ‘Last night, they staged celebrations. They are free now. But we have to think whether we will survive.’
“Laxmanpur Bathe is 100 km from Patna, on the banks of the Sone. As in any other village, there are upper caste quarters of Rajputs and Bhumihars and the Dalit hamlet comprising the lower castes of Mallah, Paswan, Ravidas and Rajvanshi. After the massacre, the hamlet got pucca brick houses from the government. But some of the mud huts with broken doors still stand, testifying to the violence.
“Laxman Rajvanshi is a survivor and eyewitness who testified in court. “Give us justice or drown us,” he said.
“Asked about the High Court’s observation that witnesses were unreliable, he said: ‘How could I not have recognised them? We stay in the same village and I see them about 10 times a day! We worked on their fields. We had no inkling of this attack, otherwise we would have been alert. The Nitish Kumar government is hand in glove with the feudal elements. He slotted us into the Mahadalit category, collected our votes and then cut our throats.’
Another eyewitness, Ram Ugraharajbanshi, said the assailants divided themselves into two groups. One was a killing squad of 35 persons and the other, of 80 men, stood guard. ‘The armed men had their mouths covered with handkerchiefs. But, of course, we were familiar with their voices.’
“The massacre was one in a series of brutal caste killings that marked the 1990s in Bihar.
“In the backdrop of a peasant struggle, the late Brahmeshwar Singh Mukhiya rallied the land-owning Bhumihars under the banner of Ranvir Sena.
“Violent and brutal confrontations between the Sena and the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) were the order of the day.”
“Bathe is an archetypal village in central Bihar. The upper-caste tola (in this case, a mix of Bhumihars and Rajputs) is visibly affluent with pucca streets and spacious houses. The residents are from the landed class. Agriculture is their main occupation. The other tola in the village is about 100 metres away and is home to Dalits and other backward classes (OBCs). Except for agricultural work, there is absolutely no interaction between the two tolas. Surrounded by agricultural fields on three sides and with the Sone river on the fourth, Bathe presents itself as an idyllic village, far from the noise and pollution of the city. Beneath the surface, however, tensions simmer between the upper castes and the backward castes.
“The Dalits are mostly agricultural workers. Until a few years ago, they were not allowed to sit in a khatiya (cot) even in their own homes and were forced to follow a feudal code of conduct. They could not wear new clothes, smoke cigarettes, ride bicycles or dare to talk with their heads held high. The landlords determined the wages and generally doled out minuscule sums. They seized Gairmazarua land (panchayat land in a village for development activities and Dalit and OBC welfare), illegally, to prevent Dalits and OBCs from using it. Whenever Dalits protested, their women got raped and men got beaten or killed. A landlord who put his labourers under ‘house arrest’ and withheld their wages but refrained from killing them was considered benevolent. The landlords, in effect, had a complete grip over the village economy.
“This was the kind of backdrop that in the late 1970s saw the emergence of naxalite outfits in central Bihar—mainly the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC), the Party Unity (PU) and the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist-Liberation). These organisations took up the issues of wage and dignity of the Dalits and OBCs. Agricultural labourers rallied behind these parties and gathered strength from their ideologies. For the first time, a few parties organised Dalits and OBCs against the age-old and violent feudal structure perpetuated by the upper castes. The MCC and the PU were underground outfits, while CPI (ML-Liberation) contested elections for ‘tactical reasons’. When the massacre took place, Laxmanpur Bathe was a stronghold of the PU, which operated through its front organisation, the Mazdoor Kisan Sangram Samiti (MKSS). Under the MKSS’ leadership, agricultural labourers of Bathe were fighting for a decent minimum wage, a dignified life, and their right to Gairmazarua land. Similar struggles were led by the CPI (ML- Liberation) in Bhojpur and the MCC in Gaya. In 2004, the MCC and the PU merged into the Communist Party of India (Maoist), and at present this outfit operates mostly from Jharkhand. It has lost much of its cadre base in central Bihar.
“In response to the naxalite challenge, many private militias of the landed and dominant castes mushroomed in Bihar through the 1980s. A series of massacres happened in central Bihar, in which these armies specifically targeted Dalit tolas and killed hundreds of people. Many private armies consolidated themselves in the early 1990s and a bigger, well-structured militia emerged. It was called the Ranveer Sena and was led by members of the Bhumihar caste. [...]
“From 1995 to 2000, the Ranveer Sena perpetrated 29 massacres, in which 287 people were killed, according to official records. With time, it expanded its operations beyond Bhojpur to other parts of central Bihar. In many cases, the police allegedly helped the Ranveer Sena to kill communist cadre. The naxalite parties retaliated forcefully in eight instances, but most of these were targeted killings unlike the indiscriminate massacres perpetrated by the Ranveer Sena. The only exception was the 1999 Senari massacre, in which the MCC killed 34 people from the Bhumihar caste. [...]
“The Bathe judgment is the third in a series of acquittals by the Patna High Court. In April 2012, the court set aside a lower court judgment and acquitted all the 23 accused in the Bathani Tola massacre case. Three had been sentenced to death and 20 to life imprisonment by the lower court. In July 2012, 19 of the 20 accused were released by the High Court in the Miyapur massacre case. On March 1, 2013, all the 11 accused were acquitted by the court after they appealed against the lower court decision that sentenced three to death and eight to life imprisonment in the Nagari Bazaar massacre. In two other cases, the Narayanpur and Sendani massacres, the lower court acquitted all the accused in the last two years. In the Senari massacre case, in which the MCC was involved, all the accused were pronounced guilty by the High Court.
“In all the cases against the Ranveer Sena, the High Court found the prosecution witnesses ‘unreliable’ and gave a lot of credence to the argument put forward by the defence lawyer that the first information reports (FIRs) were lodged a few hours after the massacre. It interpreted the ‘delay’ as an indication that it was possibly politically motivated. Critics say that the judgments point to the dual nature of the judiciary: it chose to acquit the accused in all the cases where landlords were implicated and punished the accused in cases where agricultural workers were the accused.”
Parvati Devi, who lost nine members of her family in the Laxmanpur Bathe massacre.
“The Dalits of Kariyampatti village near Dindigul, about 60 km from here, deserted their houses on Saturday and took shelter at a hillock near Chengalapatti, (away from their hamlet) fearing violent attacks from caste Hindus, allegedly over a temple festival row.
“Perumal (38), a Dalit resident of Nadupatti Colony, claimed that a caste Hindu barged in to his house late on Friday night and threatened to murder his wife for not disclosing the whereabouts of his son, who was involved in a brawl with Vanniyars, a few months ago.
“‘The men abused my wife and left, but they came later and hurled a petrol bomb on my house,’ alleged Perumal. He went on saying, ‘caste Hindus have been intimidating all Dalit families to leave the village. They have damaged several houses in the past few days. The police and revenue officials haven’t taken action against them (Vanniyars),’ he lamented.
“According to police sources, trouble began on July 16, during a temple festival celebrated by the Dalits. A group of Dalit youth wore T-shirts bearing the image of “Ondi Veeran,” a Dalit icon.
“Objecting to this, the Vanniyar youth picked up a quarrel with the Dalits and coerced them to remove the T-shirts.
“A few days later, four Dalit youths were assaulted by a group of Vanniyars, for wearing the T-shirts. The same day, a case was registered and arrests were made on both sides.”
“A -year-old school going dalit boy was inflicted with multiple injuries on his face for allegedly speaking to a non-dalit girl, aged 14, in Kumaram village near Madurai. [...]
“Police said the boy, N. Gokulakrishnan, was standing on the outskirts of his native Kumaram village near Alanganallur on the night of August 21 and was taking to his uncle Manimaran and relative Bharathi when the girl’s father, a non-dalit of the same village, attacked him. Mani, who came to the spot pulled out a knife and started stabbing the boy on the face. ‘The boy suffered deep cuts on the face, wrist, shoulder and ear. His uncle and relative Bharathi rescued him and fled the place,’ police said. [...]
“Two days before the attack, Mani had visited the house of the 14-year-old boy and threatened him of dire consequences if he continued speaking to his daughter. Subsequently, the boy’s relatives took the boy to Mani's house and explained that he was not harassing the girl. In spite of that, the boy was attacked, alleged the complaint.”
“The Dalit families that fled Hisar’s Mirchpur village after caste violence in 2010 today told a Supreme Court-appointed team they would not return as they feared for their safety. [...]
“‘How can anybody live under constant threat? The situation has not changed much in our village. The Jats are still as inimical to us as they were before. Move out the CRPF deployed in the village and you will see the consequences in two days,’ Ramesh Kumar, a middle-age Dalit man, told the team. About 135 families have been living at a farmhouse on the outskirts of Hisar since January 2011.
“Dalit settlements were targeted and torched in Mirchpur village by members of the dominant caste on April 21, 2010, resulting in the death of Tara Chand, 70, and his physically-challenged daughter. The court had convicted 15 persons and acquitted 82 in the case.
“Mincing no words, Gulab Singh, an elderly man, said: ‘Send us to other states or even Pakistan, but we will not go back to Mirchpur. There is no work for us in 20 adjoining villages. Nobody offers us even a glass of “seet” (left over after extracting butter from yogurt, “seet” is usually distributed by cattle rearing farmers free of cost to lower caste).’”
“According to the locals, the violence erupted around Thursday noon when a small group of Vanniyar Sangam members were drinking near the social forest on the side of ECR. When they were questioned, a larger group assembled immediately and entered the Kattayantheru area of the Marakkanam Colony through the forest armed with sticks and petrol bombs.
“In the violence that ensued, huts, temples and even a cowshed and haystack were burnt. Other houses were attacked with stones and sticks. On Friday morning, the residents of the colony are trying to assess their loss and pick up the pieces of their lives.
“The residents of the colony were forced to flee into the forest when they saw the mob approaching.
“‘Most of us don’t have anything left except the clothes that we are wearing. Most of the area has been destroyed and even the electric lines were cut in the violence. The attacks took us by surprise, since we did not expect anyone to enter through the forest. Unless they know the area well, they would have not known that the Colony is located just beyond the forest,’ one of the residents said. [...]
“In the Koonimedu Village, another site where there was extensive violence, the Muslims, Vanniars and Dalits joined hands to fight the members of the Vanniar Sangam, the villagers said.”
“On April 25 afternoon, a mob of Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) workers, all of them caste Hindu Vanniyars, stormed into Kattayan Theru and threw petrol bombs at Dalits’ huts. [...] It is not surprising that Kattayan Theru was chosen for the attack. Most of its Dalit residents belong to the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK, or the Dalit Panthers), headed by Thol. Thirumavalavan. The animosity between the VCK and the PMK goes back a long way.”
“The body of a 20-year-old Dalit youth, who reportedly died after some persons allegedly tied him to a tree and repeatedly rammed a car into him, was found in Devsar village of Haryana’s Bhiwani district on Wednesday. His body was found abandoned in a car on the roadside between Devsar and Kusumbi villages. [...]
“Based on a complaint by Jaimal’s father Rajpal, a case was registered against a few upper caste members living in the same village.
“Rajpal told the police that last year the upper caste members had attacked them and stopped Jaimal’s [cousin's] wedding procession. They also did not allow [Jaimal’s cousin] to sit on a elephant as part of the religious ceremony. Since then, [Jaimal] was being harassed by upper caste youths and hence, they could have killed him, Rajpal alleged in his complaint.”
“‘On December 4, 2011, my brother’s son (Jaimal’s cousin) Veervan was getting married. We had arranged for Veervan to be brought to the mandap on an elephant. The Rajputs in the village took offence. They said we had no right to use an elephant, which was a Rajput symbol of regality. They put a knife to Veervan’s throat and we had to send the elephant back. Praveen’s family was involved. I was the complainant in the police case, and they had been pressuring me to withdraw ever since. Things have been on the boil since then,’ Rajpal said.”
“Over 200 Dalits residing in Pabnawa village, around 25km from Kaithal, were lucky to have lost no lives to a violent mob of the dominant Ror community on Saturday night, but have been left without water supply since.
“Agitated after the recent elopement and marriage of a Dalit man with a woman from the landowning Ror community of the same village, the 400-strong mob barged into the settlement, Ambedkar Nagar, on Saturday night, and not only ransacked houses and shops but also damaged the locality's water tanks and six borewells, besides injuring three persons. Residents are now forced to procure drinking water from adjoining villages.
“As for the couple–Surya Kant (26) and Meena (21)–they have been in a protection home since their April 8 wedding, and the Kaithal police are guarding them on directions of the high court. After the attack, around 50 villagers including Surya Kant's relatives reportedly left the village for an undisclosed location. [...]
“Rajiv, another Dalit resident, insisted that the marriage had ‘indeed broken the bhaichara (brotherhood) of the village’, but noted, ‘The Rors now want to take revenge from the entire Dalit population and hatched a conspiracy to kill us. They had been asking us to hand over Meena to them, even when she married as per her free will and is staying with her husband at a police protection home.’
“Rors are a farming community who claim to be descendants of the Marathas who had fought the Second Battle of Panipat in the region and settled in pockets of Panipat, Karnal, Kurukshetra and Kaithal districts now. Their dominance stems from their ownership of significant chunks of land, though they are not otherwise considered high in the caste hierarchy.”
“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.
“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.’”
“Five years after Madhukar Ghadge, a Dalit who decided to dig his own well, was allegedly brutally murdered by 12 caste Hindus of Kulkajai village in Satara district, his nephew and the sole murder witness Viabhav Ghadge was brutally attacked on January 22 by three persons at the same village. [...]
“Vaibhav, a postgraduate from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, had got married two days before the incident. He was on his way to the village temple when three persons on a motorbike stopped him and his wife and attacked them.
“Tushar, Viabhav’s cousin and son of Madhukar, said the spot where the incident took place was isolated. ‘They dragged both my brother and sister-in-law and asked them to hand over all the gold jewellery they were wearing. After that they attacked them,’ he said. [...]
“It all started in 2007 when Madhukar Ghadge, a railway employee, decided to dig a well. ‘We belong to the Mang community. Our neighbours could not fathom that a Dalit could have their own well. When my father did not heed to their threats, 12 men from the village ganged up and murdered him on April 26, 2007,’ Tushar said. But the case ended up in an acquittal and an appeal is pending before the Bombay High Court. ‘Vaibhav is a complainant in the case and also the sole witness,’ Tushar said.
Growing Unease by Lyla Bavadam (Frontline cover story, November 21, 2009):
“When [Madhukar Ghatge of Kulakjai village in Satara district] retired from his job in the Railways in Mumbai in 2007, he only had one aim–cultivate his land in the village. One of the first things he did was to dig a well after acquiring the permission from the panchayat. It was, tragically, his last action. Ghatge’s upper-caste neighbours were enraged at his ‘audacity.’ On April 26, 2007, he was attacked with rods and axes and he died on the way to hospital. Fourteen people were identified as the assailants and 12 were arrested and charged.”
“As many as 268 dwellings–huts, tiled-roof and one- or two-room concrete houses–were torched by the mob after a caste Hindu man, Nagarajan, committed suicide over his daughter marrying a Dalit boy from one of the colonies. [...]
“It is said that Ilavarasan and Divya got married in a temple a month ago. Fearing attack by caste Hindus, the couple approached the Deputy Inspector of General of Police, Salem Range, Sanjay Kumar, only a week ago for protection. Though the police assured them safety, a kangaroo court directed Ilavarasan’s family to return the girl on Wednesday. The girl refused to go with her father, who later hanged himself at his house in Sellankottai, just half a km from the Dalit colonies. And then, the mobs went on the rampage.”
“An official estimate, though preliminary as claimed by Collector R. Lilly, has put the number of damaged households at 268. The three colonies in total have 500 houses, a strong concentration of Dalits in one single block in the district.
“Almost all the able-bodied youth from these colonies are working in Bangalore as construction workers, godown boys and collectors of used paper market for recycling. Their hard-earned money serves as solid investments in their native village. Some have become landholders. They grow maize, turmeric and tapioca in rain-fed conditions.
“‘For the past one decade, I have been working in a godown in Bangalore where they pay me Rs. 200 a day. I leave my wife and children back at the village. Our small but hard-earned savings of all these years have gone up in smoke in one single night of riot,’ laments Muniappa of Anna Nagar.
“Those who have suffered extensive damage claim that the mob, armed with deadly weapons and petrol bombs, indulged in four-hour looting. ‘We were chased out before they began their act. Almirahs were broken and valuables such as gold jewellery and cash stolen before the houses were either set on fire or damaged,’ said Rajalingam in Natham colony who runs a lucrative business in used paper market in Bangalore.”
“In an India that is fractured along caste lines, a marriage is never the simple establishment of a relationship between two independent, adult individuals. Instead, it can involve not only the two families, but whole communities as well. An inter-caste marriage without parental approval is, therefore, a potential trigger for violence in rural India. The caste group that is relatively higher in the social hierarchy sees any such marriage as a social affront, especially if the other caste group is Dalit. Wednesday’s attack on three Dalit colonies in Dharmapuri district of Tamil Nadu, which ended in the burning down of 268 houses, is another shocking instance of how social stigmas engendered by caste identities can provoke large-scale violence. The arson was the immediate fallout of the suicide of a caste Hindu man whose daughter had married a Dalit living in one of the colonies. Apparently unable to accept his daughter’s decision to marry a Dalit, the man opted to end his life. For a bride’s family, especially if it is higher in the caste ladder, the socially-sanctioned stigma associated with an inter-caste marriage is greater. Women carry a far heavier responsibility of having to protect the “family honour”, which is a euphemism for the feudal notions of social status and acceptance held by the senior male members of the family. Indeed, the prevalence of such notions is an indicator of the secondary status accorded to women in these communities.
“Worryingly, in rural Tamil Nadu where caste conflicts over marriages, religious rituals or access to public resources are common, the police were slow to sense the potential for trouble. A few days before the violence, the newly wedded couple had approached the police for protection fearing attacks by members of the bride’s community. Other than providing assurances and holding out promises, the police seem to have taken no preventive steps. A self-styled court in the village ordered the Dalit man to send his wife back to her parents, but the woman refused to leave her husband. This should have alerted the police to the possibility of trouble. Although the suicide, the immediate trigger for the attack, could not have been predicted or prevented, the police had adequate reason to apprehend the tensions and ample time to take precautionary steps. The only reason that none in the Dalit colonies suffered any bodily harm is that all the residents had left their homes and taken shelter in another village. Social stigmas and caste inequalities cannot be wiped out overnight, but surely the law enforcers can show greater anticipation and quicker reflexes in familiar situations that give rise to tensions between caste groups.”
“The police firing on dalits at Than town in Surendranagar district was the latest in a series of police atrocities committed on Scheduled Caste people in Gujarat. Most acts of police brutality towards dalits go unreported but even the five cases — including the Than incident — that were officially recorded in the last three months paint a sad picture of caste prejudice in the state.
“FIRs and murder cases have been registered against policemen in two of the five cases mentioned [below], but this is unlikely to end the plight of dalits who, particularly in rural areas, live in constant fear of police violence. [...]
“Three dalits, including two underage boys, were killed in police firing at Than town in Surendranagar district. A murder and conspiracy case was registered against four police officials only after dalits took to the streets at several places to protest against the incident.
“Police lathicharged a dalit rally against the murder of Gunwant Makwana, an SC leader. In the lathicharge, policemen beat up a young girl so savagely that she suffered spinal injuries. The girl is still in hospital. Gujarat HC had suo motu issued notices to police in the case.
“Arvind Makwana, a Dalit youth, was paraded in his knickers in Ved village when he agitated against a retired police inspector belonging to an upper caste. Lunawada court has taken cognizance of the incident in favor of the Scheduled Caste people.
“Arvind Chauhan, 27, a dalit youth, died in police custody at Pathawada police station in Banaskantha district. His body was kept in police custody for three days. Following an agitation, a murder case was registered against 4 cops, including PSI of Pathawada police station.
“Kelia Vasna, Dholka
“Dashrath Solanki, a dalit, committed suicide in front of the Dholka police station as the cops had refused to register a complaint against his business partner, Bhikhabhai Patel. Solanki’s relatives claim suicide note of the deceased was given to cops but is now missing.”
“A dozen upper caste men in Madhya Pradesh sliced off the nose of a Dalit man because they didn’t like the sight of a lower caste man riding a motorcycle in front of them.
“The victim has been admitted to the district hospital in Shivpuri for treatment.
“Prakash Jatav (31) was attacked by a group of men from the Kushwaha community after he was spotted driving his motorcycle near Jaitpur square that falls under Narwar police station in Shivpuri district on Monday.
“The gang of upper caste men pounced on the hapless victim and started beating him with shoes and sticks. Not satisfied with that, one of them cut off Jatav’s nose in full public view. Other members from the Dalit community who were there were too terrified to react and ran for cover.
“‘They badly beat me up with shoes, sticks and repeatedly told me that I have no right to drive a motorcycle,’ the victim said.”
“A 27-year-old Dalit man in Haryana was allegedly humiliated and sent into exile for 11 years over his love affair with a higher-caste girl.
“His face was painted black as he was thrown out by his village panchayat. The panchayat at Putthi Samain village near Narnaund police station of Hisar district also fined him Rs 21,000. [...]
“In his complaint, the man said he fell in love with the girl from the same village while they were studying at a coaching institution in Meham tehsil. He alleged that when the girl’s parents came to know of the affair, they took the matter to the village panchayat.
When he appeared before the panchayat on 31 May, its members reprimanded him, blackened his face and exiled him. The girl’s father also married her off on 2 June.”
“Brahmeshwar Singh, a wealthy landlord known as the ‘Butcher of Bihar,’ was killed in a hail of bullets Friday while taking his morning walk, ending a notorious chapter in Indian history.
“Singh, 67, the leader of a banned militia of upper-caste members known as Ranvir Sena, hit the headlines in the 1990s after he and fellow landlords were accused of the massacre of scores of lower-caste Dalits, or so-called untouchables, in central Bihar state. [...]
“The Sena, or ‘army,’ was formed in 1994 by landlords who felt threatened by the state's changing political winds, including louder calls for Dalit rights and land reform as well as a growing number of attacks on the wealthy by Maoists.
“Singh, who took over the group a few months after it was formed, was suspected of planning or directly participating in as many as 29 incidents in which more than 200 Dalits were killed. In 1996, 23 were killed in a village in Bhojpur district and in 1997 about 60 were slain in the state’s Lakshmanpur Bathe area.
“Little effort was made to hide the killings in Bihar, a state with a serious law-and-order problem and a centuries-old feudal structure that viewed landholders as a law unto themselves, analysts said.
“The attacks ‘were carried out openly during the day and at night,’ said Ajit Kumar Singh, a research fellow and Bihar native with New Delhi’s Institute for Conflict Management. ‘Sometimes victims were shot, sometimes butchered.’
“Singh went underground for several years after the group was banned, but he retained significant support among Bihar’s upper caste and would periodically hold high-profile news conferences.
“‘He became sort of a celebrity,’ said Sankarshan Thakur, an editor with the Telegraph newspaper and author of a book on Bihar's political system. ‘He knew how to work the system.’”
“The Ranvir Sena, loosely translated as the army of the brave, is suspected to have been formed around 1994 by landlords of the Bhumihar caste to battle growing Naxalite activism in the region and perhaps owes its creation to a fight between landlords and Communist party activists in which one person was killed.
“Singh, a graduate from the Jain College in Arra who was named village ‘mukhiya’ (headman) at age 17, and another landlord Dharicharan Chowdhury are credited with forming the militia and ensuring that their supporters were well equipped with weapons, provided allowances and other benefits.
“Competing with other militia like Sunlight Sena, Savarna Liberation Army, Brahmarishi Sena, Kuer Sena and Ganga Sena around the same time and which drew their cadre based on caste, the Ranvir Sena stood out with brutal massacres that catapulted them into the national consciousness.
“Horrific massacres like that of Baithani Tola in 1996 in which 21 were killed, mostly women and children; the 1997 Lakshmanpur-Bathe village massacre in which 58 were killed and the 1999 Shankarbigha village massacre in which 23 villagers were killed, ensured that the Ranvir Sena were feared and reviled.
“Promising to claim 15 lives of opponents for every murder of their own group, the Ranvir Sena were equipped with automatic guns and were dreaded for their night attacks in which they stormed villages and murdered perceived enemies. Despite being banned in 1995, the militia continued to go on rampages for years later and are accused of taking close to 277 lives.
“As the Ranvir Sena's clout grew, so did Singh’s status within his Khopira village in Bhojpur district and areas well beyond. The biggest landowner in his village owning 100 bighas of land, Singh was held in high esteem despite being on the run from the police who claimed to be seeking to arrest him in one of the 22 cases registered against him. Not all believe he was on the run as claimed thanks to his political links which were extensive.
“Proof of this was the fact that he continued to address meetings and was arrested only in 2002 while holding one such public meeting of a Ranvir Sena wing in a building located in a crowded area of Patna. Many believed his arrest took place as a result of the political cracks that emerged between the Ranvir Sena and the political parties that supported it.
“After his arrest, a defiant Singh told reporters, ‘I don’t have any remorse over the massacres carried out by the Ranvir Sena in its fight against Naxalite groups such as the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation, or the CPI(ML) Liberation, the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) and the People's War (P.W.) and their supporters, particularly among the landless poor and the backward Dalit community.’”
“Brahmeshwar Singh, alias Mukhiya, is said to have once publicly justified the killing of Dalit women and children. The self-styled chief of the Ranvir Sena, a private militia of upper caste landlords which unleashed terror in the 1990s killing fields of Bihar, was quoted as saying that Dalit children grew up to be Naxalites and the women give birth to them.”
1995 - Khopira (Bhojpur district): It was at the ancestral village of Ranvir Sena founder Brahmeshwar Singh, aka Mukhiyaji, that the outlawed militia of the upper caste landlords first struck, killing three scheduled caste agricultural workers.
1995 - Sarthua (Bhojpur): Six farm labourers belonging to scheduled castes killed.
1996 - Bathani Tola (Bhojpur): 22 agricultural workers belonging to the scheduled castes and Muslim communities killed.
1997 - Laxmanpur-Bathe (Jehanabad): 58 people belonging to scheduled castes gunned down.
1997 - Haibaspur (Patna): 10 more farm labourers belonging to scheduled castes killed.
1997 - Ekwari (Bhojpur): 10 people belonging to scheduled castes killed.
1998 - Nagri (Bhopur): 10 farm workers belonging to the scheduled castes killed.
1999 - Sendani (Gaya): 12 poor people massacred.
1999 - Narayanpur (Jehanabad): 11 people from the backward communities killed.
1999 - Shankarbigha (Jehanabad): 23 people of the village executed.
2002 - Mianpur (Aurangabad): 35 members of the backward and scheduled castes killed.
“The Patna High Court has acquitted all the 23 persons accused of perpetrating the massacre of 21 Dalits at Bathani Tola in Bhojpur in 1996.
“The carnage took place on the afternoon of July 11, 1996. Upper-caste (Rajput and Bhumihar) landowners of the Ranvir Sena — a private militia of the landlords — stormed Bathani Tola in Bhojpur district's Sahar block in Central Bihar and ruthlessly hacked the Dalits, among them women, teenage girls and babies less than 10 months old.
“Ajay Singh was charged with brutally killing 10-year-old Phool Kumari, Manoj Singh was charged with the murder of the three-month-old daughter of Naimuddin (one of the prime eyewitnesses) and Nagender alias Narendra Singh was charged with slaughtering two women, Sanjharu and Ramratiya Devi. They were awarded the death sentence by the sessions court.
“Bathani Tola, along with Laxmanpur-Bathe (where more than 60 Dalit men, women and children were slaughtered by the Ranvir Sena), have since become bywords for caste massacres that engulfed central Bihar from the mid-1990s onwards.”
“The Ranvir Sena was founded by upper-caste Bhumihars in Belaur village, Bhojpur district, in 1994. It first made international headlines in July 1996 with its attack on Bathani Tola in Bhojpur district, Bihar, which left nineteen Dalits and Muslims, mostly women and children, dead. Sixty members of the sena reportedly descended on the village and set twelve houses on fire. Using lathis, swords, and firearms, the attackers continued the onslaught for two and a half hours. The attack was reportedly in retaliation for the earlier killing of nine Bhumihars in Nadhi village, also in Bhojpur district, by the CPI(M-L). The conflict began when CPI(M-L) began organizing the agricultural laborers to demand the statutory daily minimum wage of Rs. 30.75 (US$0.77). Landowners were only willing to pay Rs. 20 (US$0.50). CPI(M-L) members convinced laborers to refuse employment at that wage and called for an economic blockade against landowners. The attack on Bathani Tola, press reports claim, was an effort to weaken the resolve of CPI(M-L) cadres organizing in the village and to prevent a labor boycott on hundreds of acres of land. None of the Ranvir Sena leaders were ever arrested for the Bathani Tola massacre.
“Since its inception, the Ranvir Sena has been implicated in killings, rapes and lootings in the villages of Belaur, Ekwari, Chandi, Nanaur, Narhi, Sarathau, Haibaspur, Laxmanpur-Bathe, Shankarbigha, and Narayanpur. On April 22, 1996, the sena gunned down five members of a marriage party in Nanaur village. The victims were believed to be CPI(M-L) supporters. In 1997 the sena killed three Dalits in Jehanabad district for raising their voice against the rape of a Dalit girl by upper-caste youths.”
“The important part in the case is Karthigaisamy coming out in support of his friend in spite of earning the ire of his relatives and villagers of the dominant caste.
“He had given a statement to police accusing Thavam and Balamurugan of attacking Karmegakannan, clearly stating all the facts.
“In his statement, he had narrated how Thavam was threatening Karmegakannan to break his friendship with him. He had warned us not to go ahead with the friendship, warning of dire consequences if we continued our friendship, Karthigaisamy stated. On February 16, Karmegakannan called him from a mobile phone stating that he was attacked by Thavam and Balamurugan who left him to die after causing him serious injuries. He had reached a poultry farm in Kovanur village and alerted his friend about the incident. Karthigaisamy rushed to the spot and found his friend in a pool of blood, and rushed him to hospital, he told the police.
“A. Kathir, executive director of Madurai-based NGO Evidence who had sent a fact finding committee in this incident, stated that Karthigaisamy, in spite of hailing from a dominant caste, was leading the legal battle to seek justice for Karmegakannan.”
“Rajesh was called by a private contractor at Daulatpur village for doing labour work in some fields there. The incident took place when he went to the field of Rajender alias Pappu for drinking water from an earthen pot kept there. Pappu was also in the field at that time.
“After coming to know that Rajesh is from a Scheduled Caste, Pappu in a fit of anger allegedly attacked Rajesh with a sharp-edged weapon that left his hand dismembered.”
“At least 30 houses of Dalits were torched by the upper caste community at Lathor village in Balangir district on Sunday night, following a clash between the two groups over a petty issue.
“The situation had escalated beyond control, with people so incensed that they even torched the fire-fighting vehicle that was brought in to extinguish the fire. No media persons were allowed to enter the village. [...]
“Police sources said four youths from Dalit basti in the village, under Khaprakhol police station, had gone to one Laxmi cloth store on Sunday evening to purchase some cloth. The shop owner Jaydev Meher, along with his two sons Daya and Bharat, reportedly had an altercation with the boys over the purchase, in which one of the Dalit boys was assaulted. The Dalit community took it seriously and decided to teach a lesson to the shop owner for assaulting a boy of their community. ‘The situation went out of control when the Dalits came in a group and attacked Bharat Meher, who was seriously injured and admitted to Khaprakhol hospital,’ said a senior resident of the village.
“According to him, the upper caste people then convened a meeting and marched towards Dalit basti at night. They torched the houses of the basti and within a short span the entire basti was ablaze. ‘We did not get time to save our belongings. We started running towards jungles to save our lives,’ said a resident of the basti.
“[A]bout 193 victims were rescued by police, which includes 33 boys and 85 women, all of whom were given shelter in a local high school.”
“We were taken straight to the Durgeshwari High School, which was providing temporary shelter to 193 people of 45 families. All of them are Dalits belonging to the Ganda caste. The entire Gandapara [Ganda neighborhood] of Lathore village was gutted down to ashes on the 22nd January by a mob of more than 500 people, most of whom belonged to the Meher caste. Since then, all of them are staying in the school building. We stayed with the affected families, spoke to them at length, visited their burnt locality and also spoke to people in the neighbourhood and in the Meherpara [Meher neighborhood]. What emerged from the variant conversations is that it was not a spontaneous incident, nor was it an incident of inter-caste feud. It was rather a planned attack on Gandapara, where the Dalits were economically, politically and educationally becoming assertive. It was a well thought-out attempt to demolish their growing prosperity and dignity. It was also clear that the people from the [backward] Meher castes were used by the [uppercaste] Marwari baniyas [merchants] and the RSS/BJP to unleash the violence on Gandapara.
“The incident: On 22nd January, a young Dalit boy Ganesh Suna had gone to the market to buy a new shirt. While coming out of the shop the shopkeeper Bharat Meher alleged him for stealing a shirt and beat him up. When Ganesh’s grandfather, an aged person came to confront Bharat, he was beaten up too. They reported the incident to the members of ‘Sri Krishna Club’ of Gandapara and a few men came and confronted Bharat. The people of Gandapara then went to lodge an FIR in Khaprakhol, police station which is 20 km from Lathor. The rest of the men of Gandapara were also in Khaprakhol attending a shradh ceremony. Back in Lathor a baseless rumour was spread that Bharat has been killed by the people of Gandapara. By 2 pm a crowd of around 500 people gathered near a temple. The belligerent crowd was provided with ample alcohol, petrol and kerosene. This crowd then was unleashed on the entire Gandapara where they targeted each and every household. Within the same locality there were houses of people belonging to other castes which were spared. The houses were completely looted first and then broken and finally set on fire. The carnage started at around 2 pm and the fire continued to burn till around midnight.”
“It was a terrifying Christmas in 2007 for tribal and dalit Christians who live in the second poorest, deeply forested district of Odisha, Kandhamal. Long-smouldering violence targeting them exploded, and was to continue to rage for another full year. During this time, 600 villages were ransacked, 5,600 houses were looted and burnt, 54,000 persons rendered homeless, 295 churches and places of worship destroyed, and 13 schools, colleges and orphanages were damaged. The official death toll was 39, although unofficially the figure is claimed to be closer to 100. 30,000 people were forced to live in relief camps, and it is estimated that nearly half are still unable to return home. [...]
“Although the states of Odisha and Gujarat are located at the furthest eastern and western corners of India, separated by several thousand kilometres, the mass-targeted hate violence in both states, in 2007-08 and 2002 respectively have many striking — and deeply troubling — similarities. Each was characterised by a long build-up of hatred against religious minority residents, there is evidence of systematic advance preparation, state authorities were openly complicit in enabling the violence to persist for weeks and months, the attacks were unusually brutal and targeted women, thousands were displaced and discouraged from returning to their homes, facing organised social and economic boycott. And in both, compensation was tight-fisted and justice systematically subverted. [...]
“In Odisha, once again like in Gujarat five years earlier, the attacks were marked by exceptional cruelty. Kanaka Nayak recalls the horrific mob slaughter of her husband when he refused to reconvert to Hinduism. ‘They spat on him and started to sing and dance around him; they paraded him, and dragged him. They told him “you sing your songs and let Jesus come and save you”.’ [...]
“Women who suffered sexual violence in both massacres continue to live with the agony of memory and silences of shame. One said in confidence to the Tribunal, ‘The attackers removed their mask before they raped me. Earlier, they would respect me. I was shocked that they took revenge on me for my uncle's refusal to convert to Hinduism... Lots of things have changed in my life after that incident. I have been in hiding. I am traumatised, sad, depressed and struggling. I feel ashamed. I am unable to forget about the incident and carry on with life. But I feel I should be strong to get justice.’”
“An Uthapuram-like situation is developing in a small village at Srivilliputhur in Virudhunagar district following the construction of an ‘untouchability wall’ by a dominant community there in the aftermath of violent caste clashes that rocked the hamlet on May 15.
“Strongly segregated in terms of caste, W Pudupatti, near Sivakasi, has seen conflict and tension between the Naidus, Saliyars, Pallars and Paraiyars since the 1960s. The series of clashes, the latest between the Pallars (backward Hindus), numbering about 500 families, and Paraiyars, comprising 300 Dalit Christian families, was the result of a ‘hidden apartheid’ prevailing in the village, rights activists have alleged.
“Signs of the confrontation were visible in the Dalit settlement, which bore the brunt of the attacks, even after a fortnight. The clash reportedly broke out when a Dalit youth Jayaram Anthony (24) went to buy a mirror from a shop near a Pallar street and was threatened and beaten up by two Pallar youth. [...]
“Claiming that the State machinery was siding with the higher-caste groups, the villagers said after the incident, a wall, segregating the higher caste Saliyars and the Dalit quarters, was constructed under the supervision of the district SP and tahsildar. Official line: The new wall marked the boundary of a Saliyar-run school.
“Describing the structure as an ‘untouchability wall,’ the Dalits, however, said they had been using the path for several years without causing inconvenience or obstruction to anybody. They alleged that the real purpose behind the sudden construction of the structure was to cut off the main escape route for the Dalit men in the event of caste clashes, which have become an annual feature.
“A life lived in perpetual fear, the status of Dalits in W Pudupatti reflects the general pattern—discrimination and abuse at the hands of higher-caste groups. Denied access to land, they roll cracker sticks for their livelihood. [...]
“Nevertheless, academic forte appears to be the silver lining as well as the sore point. A Jayakumar (28), a B Ed graduate, said the higher-caste groups could not digest the development of the community through education.
“It has also inculcated in them a deep awareness of their rights and intolerance to oppression.”
“The scourge of untouchability has raised its ugly head in Hosapura village of Malavalli taluk, Mandya district, where a group of ‘caste' Hindus allegedly created ruckus over the appointment of a Dalit as a valve-man.
“The incident took place early last week and threatened to split the community on caste lines. Police have arrested three persons in this connection but this served only to escalate the tension as ‘caste' Hindus questioned the ‘temerity’ of the Dalits to lodge a police complaint against them.
“Sources said the genesis of the tension could be traced to the decision of the Gram Panchayat Secretary Siddaraju, who appointed Venkatesh, a Dalit, as the valve-man to release water to the village. When a group of persons saw Venkatesh releasing water, they raised a hue and cry on the ‘propriety’ of using the water released by a ‘Dalit valve-man,’ said sources.
“As a result, tension built up in the village and a section of the aggrieved community lodged a police complaint, following which three persons, identified as Shivu, Basavaraj and Prakash were arrested and later released on bail. Irked by the ‘audacity’ of the Dalit community, they have been allegedly boycotted by people from other communities, sources said.
“However, Shivaramu, Social Welfare Officer of Mandya told The Hindu that he had visited the village and inquired into the incident which presented a different picture.
“He said the village community had strong political affiliations and was split along party lines. ‘It transpired that the appointment of a Dalit was not the issue. The warring groups wanted one of their confidantes to be given the job of the valve-man. However, a few outside elements gave a caste twist to the appointment of Mr. Venkatesh, which led to tension following which three persons were arrested and later released on bail,’ Mr. Shivaramu said.
“‘I visited the village twice after the incident was reported and the allegations of Dalits being denied work in agricultural farms was false. Landlords and landless labourers are mutually dependent and one could not do without the other,’ he added. Mr. Shivaramu said the situation was now under control and the district administration has ensured supply of groceries and other essential commodities to the Dalit colony.”
“The dispute over access to burial ground was on for quite sometime in the village and on December 22, 2010, the caste Hindus of the village had organised a meeting which was presided over by the panchayat president, in which, Revenue Inspector Kodangipatty, Inspector of Police Palani Chetti Patty and Sub-Inspector of Police Veerapandi participated. In the meeting, it was decided that the Dalits should not use the common burial ground and even if there was a dispute they should refer it only to the revenue authorities and police and decide on the place of burial.
“Meanwhile, on January 2, when an elderly Dalit person died, the Dalits of the village decided to bury him in the common burial ground meant for Hindus, but the dominant castes objected to this and attacked them. The Dalits staged a protest, following which the government authorities organised a peace meeting. However, the dominant caste members did not allow the Dalits to bury the deceased in the common burial ground. The body had to be buried in Dalits'own land.
“Tension between the Dalits and caste Hindus had been brewing for sometime and on January 27 a group of caste Hindus attacked Chinnayi [a 55-year-old-Dalit woman] by hurling petrol bombs, in which she suffered injuries [and died]. Raja (35), son of Chinnayi, lodged a complaint with the Veerapandi police who registered cases against Rasu Thevar, Damodaran, Markandan Singam and Dhanasekaran under Sections 147, 148, 436, 307 of IPC and Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 3(1)(10), 3(2)(5) and [they] were arrested.”
“Two Dalits were torched alive and 18 homes gutted in Hisar, Haryana, apparently over a dog. So what really happened?
“In Mirchpur, the official story is that a dog belonging to a Dalit, repeatedly referred to as a bitch in First Information Report No 166 filed at Narnaund police station, barks at some drunk Jat youth driving through the Balmiki colony. Rajinder Pali, son of a Jat zamindar, hurls a brick at the dog, Ruby. Yogesh, a young Dalit, objects, and an argument follows. They come to blows. Threatened with dire consequences, two Balmiki elders, Veer Bhan and Karan Singh, apologise to the Jat elders. They are beaten up badly. The Jats are baying now. The fact that the Narnaund’s Station House Officer (SHO) Vinod Kumar Kajal is close to a prominent Jat of Mirchpur, emboldens them. The stage is set for carnage.
“I spoke to Ruby, and wagging her tail, she denied that she had any role to play. She cited Namdeo Dhasal’s poem, ‘Song of the Dog and the Republic’: Chained dog being dog he whines and sometimes barks / This being his constitutional right. She even recounted a more bizarre case, reported in 2004, from Tamil Nadu’s Shanmugapuram village in Tuticorin district, where Reddiyars had issued a diktat barring Dalits from rearing male dogs since they could mate with bitches from the ‘chaste’ Hindu colonies.
“The Balmikis of Mirchpur have done well for themselves. Many have small businesses, work in the neighbouring district headquarters Jind, have contracts for fishing rights in the local pond, like Karan Singh whose pet Ruby is. In the past two years, they have even won the contract for conducting the annual spring festival at the local Phoolan Devi temple attended by people from all over Haryana. It is at this festival, which began in March this year, that trouble began brewing. The local Jat youth, Balmikis say, sexually harass Balmiki women, almost as a matter of right. This happened a bit too often in the crowded temple festival, to which they objected. Ruby is right. Her barking at Jats was just the pretext.
“Fearing the worst, Mirchpur’s Dalits begged for police protection. None came. On the morning of 21 April, as SHO Kajal and the local tehsildar hustled the Balmiki men to attend a compromise meeting, a mob of 300-400 Jats, men and women, encircled the Balmiki colony. They were armed with jerry cans of kerosene and petrol, agricultural implements and lathis. The SHO and the naib tehsildar apparently told the gathered Jats they would have one hour to do whatever they wished. Sounds exactly like what someone in Gujarat said in February 2002. What followed was targeted burning of 18 houses of relatively prosperous Balmikis. Before the Jat men set the homes ablaze, their women ransacked jewels, cash, clothes. Modest TV sets, DVD players, refrigerators and air-coolers lay twisted, singed by the heat. The skeletal remains of a motorbike, belonging to Amar Chauhan, brother of Suman, bears witness. A fan’s twisted blades droop eerily. [...]
“Outside the khap, Arjun Singh, a young Jat advocate, confronts me: ‘Please make sure you write that the Dalits set fire to their own homes for the sake of compensation. These dheds [dhed means something like ‘slave’; as a reference to the traditional servitude of untouchables it is an extreme casteist slur] will kill their own for the sake of money.’
“I rummage the charred remains of the house where Suman was locked in. She was affected by polio, and the tricycle provided to her stands outside the now-roofless house. Suman’s crumbling English textbook is called English with a Purpose. On the last page, it says in big type, ‘Together Make it a Better World.’”
“‘They call us dhed. They object to our sitting on charpoys [a type of cot used in villages],’ said Ram Kumar, a retired principal. Almost every Valmiki family in the village had a matriculate, he said. Back in 1995, in order to defuse the tension in the village, those like his father had accepted the humiliating terms set by Jats–such as removing his turban in front of Jats. But the Valmikis are in no mood to take such insults any more.
“The benefits of reservation and the legal safeguards have empowered the Valmikis. There are teachers, engineers, army men and gazetted officers from among them. But a good number of educated Valmikis work as daily wage labourers. With few government jobs and no agricultural land to fall back on, this section depends on construction and agricultural work on land owned by Jats.”
“A fact-finding team on a visit last Saturday to Haryana’s Mirchpur village, where two dalits were burned to death and 18 houses gutted, reports that the arson wasn’t arbitrary.
“The attackers, allegedly from the Jat community, identified houses of the more well-off among the Balmiki community and set them on fire. A beauty parlour, kirana stores and a barber-shop were totally gutted, an obvious attempt to cower dalit prosperity, however limited.
“‘Any semblance of status symbol was attacked," said journalist Bhasha Singh, houses with motorbikes, televisions, fridges. And shops that dalits ran. ‘The mood in the village was that dalits “need to be taught a lesson.”’ The first thing the mob did, a woman ‘was to break the Sintex water tanks provided by the government, so we had no way of dousing the fire.’ [...]
“Located in Hissar district, Mirchpur has a handful of dalits: about 100 Balmiki families, 350 ‘Jatav’ families and 50 Doms to the 1700-odd Jat families. The team found that growing economic prosperity among a section of the minority dalits seemed to be the root cause this time around. [...]
“Most dalit households have packed off women and younger family members to other villages. Those who remain told chairperson of National Commission for Scheduled Castes, Buta Singh, also present in the village, they wanted to resettle elsewhere ‘far from the Jats.’ They called it ‘a pre-planned attack,’ the fight and barking-dog story only a pretext, what with a mob of 300 to 400 surrounding the locality on the morning of April 21, while the community’s men had been talked into attending a 'compromise meeting' to cool tensions.”
“1. It was a pre-planned attack with the connivance of the police. The row over the dog, highlighted by the media and police, was only a pretext.
“2. There was trouble brewing over Dalits managing a local temple festival. The prosperity and independence of a section of the Dalits was begrudged by the Jats.
“3. The village Mirchpur has a history of violence against Dalits as evidenced by the 2007 incident where five Dalits belonging to Dom community were paraded naked and abused. Also, the Mirchpur carnage is a sequel to Salwan (2007, Karnal district);
Gohana (2005) and the Jhajjar lynching (2003).
“4. There was, and continues to be, complete collusion between the Jat-dominated district police and the Jats of the village so much that Dalits have completely lost faith in the administration. Most Balmiki families have left the village and those left behind are demanding resettlement in a safer place.”
“When a dalit family had an argument with members of the Jat community in Hisar, 18-year-old Suman and her father Tarachand became the victims.
“The sprawl began when the some Jat men threw stones at Tarachand’s dog and later allegedly torched nearly 25 dalit houses.
“Suman, who was wheelchair-bound and her father died in the blaze.
“When around 20 young men came to attack the village, 18-year-old Suman was in her house. Since she was physically challenged and did not know what else to do, she locked herself in a room. Unfortunately, it was set on fire and her body discovered the next day.
“Dalits in the village say the Jats, who consider themselves superior were increasingly growing jealous as many dalits were relatively well educated.”
“‘We have seen members of our community being burnt. How can we live here? 200 to 300 persons were staying here, most of them have left and some youngsters are staying here. What have the authorities done when all this was happening?’ said Sunil.”
“NEW DELHI: Just days after a Karnal court in Haryana sentenced five men to death for their role in an honour killing, the central district police claimed to have apprehended a 17-year-old minor and his two friends, allegedly for plotting and murdering a 20-year-old Dalit youth who reportedly ‘proposed’ to the former’s 15-year-old sister.
“‘The boy came all the way from Haryana, where his family had sent him after he fell in bad company, after news reached him that Bunty proposed to his younger sister, a Class 10 student of open school, in full public view,’ said Jaspal Singh, DCP (central).
“According to the police, Bunty was lured to a spot near Jakhira Bridge on March 25 where, helped by Arun alias Behari (22) and a 14-year-old boy, the brother of the girl killed him.”
"Around 100 survivors of communal violence, who have been staying in an abandoned NAC market complex at G. Udaygiri of Kandhamal district after the forcible closure of relief camps by the government, have been asked by the local administration to vacate the place. With the news of visit of a European Commission team to the region, the government have ordered to remove the people again as a part of its attempt to project that government had brought back normalcy in Kandhamal and violence affected people are living at their villages peacefully without any threat.
"‘The BDO has asked us to vacate immediately and if we refuse police force will be used,’ said the worried survivors of Kandhamal violence. When the violence broke out on August 23, 2008, they were forced to leave their villages and their houses were burnt down. They had to take shelter in relief camps, but they were forced to leave from there also after the new BJD government come to power. Hence they had taken shelter in the market complex like beggars.
"‘Where can we go with these two babies?’ asked a crying mother Ms. Menaka Nayak (25). Her youngest baby was born in the camp itself. ‘We can not go back to our village, because they will not allow us to live there if we do not convert to Hinduism. The government is not prepared to provide security and necessary help. On top of it they are trying to throw us out from here also.’"
"In a shocking case of caste discrimination, a dalit has alleged that he was forced to eat human faeces by a group of 'high caste Christians' for walking with chappals [footwear] in their street in the district.
"The dalit youth, in his complaint to Batalagundu police inspector, said 'a group of high caste Christians forced human faeces into my mouth after beating me for walking with chappals in their street.'
"Sadayandi, who is from Indhira Nagar in Meikovilpatti in Dindigul district [of Tamil Nadu], claimed the incident occurred on January 7 when a group of more than 10 'caste Christians' stopped him and asked if he was not aware of the 'order' that dalits should not walk with chappals in their street. Then they asked him to remove his chappals and slapped him with it, he said.
"'One of them suggested that I should be fed human excreta.'"
"The aggressive pursuit of neoliberal economic policies by governments at the Centre and in many States over the past decade has also resulted in an increase in atrocities against the S.Cs and the S.Ts. Ironically, even the Uttar Pradesh government [headed by dalit chief minister Mayawati] is not free from such ventures. The government’s ambitious 1,047-kilometre-long Ganga Expressway project, connecting Greater Noida near Delhi and Ballia in eastern Uttar Pradesh, was expected to acquire 64,000 hectares of land, 70 per cent of which is agricultural land. A number of observers and social analysts pointed out that this acquisition would militate against the basic livelihood of a large section of Dalits who were into share-cropping with upper-caste, land-owning farmers.
"According to NCRB data since 2005, Uttar Pradesh ranks the highest in the number of cases of caste atrocities, followed closely by Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Gujarat. 'Acts like these empower and help organise Dalits. With greater awareness about the Act, we have seen a rise in caste atrocities every year,' said Sirivella Prasad of the NDMJ.
"The trend clearly shows that caste atrocities have increased with greater social and economic mobility of the S.Cs and the S.Ts which disrupts the exploitative status quo of a feudal society.
"Many activists note that atrocity cases happen when Dalits try to avail themselves of legal resources; assert their right over land, water, and livelihood; assert their right to choose their occupation; attempt to participate in the cultural life of the community; assert their right to vote; and are victimised to satisfy the superstitions of dominant castes (witchcraft, human sacrifice). With respect to the S.Ts, activists say most of the atrocities happen when they try to organise themselves politically against the combined exploitation of government officials and industrial goons in the hinterland."
"A 15-year-old S.C. girl [of Rajnai village in Beed district on August 23] was kidnapped and gangraped by three men, one of whom is believed to be a Hindu priest. She was left at a bus stand by her assailants. Her family filed an FIR but the police initially refused to register a case under the S.C./S.T. Act, though they did it later, under pressure from a non-governmental organisation (NGO). The main accused has not yet been arrested and the family is under pressure to withdraw the case. 'They are landless people and depend on the upper castes for their income. This is being used to put pressure on them,' said a representative of the NGO.
"If they did own some land and decide to grow something on it, they could meet the fate of Madhukar Ghatge of Kulakjai village in Satara district. When he retired from his job in the Railways in Mumbai in 2007, he only had one aim – cultivate his land in the village. One of the first things he did was to dig a well after acquiring the permission from the panchayat. It was, tragically, his last action. Ghatge’s upper-caste neighbours were enraged at his 'audacity.' On April 26, 2007, he was attacked with rods and axes and he died on the way to hospital. Fourteen people were identified as the assailants and 12 were arrested and charged under sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the S.C./S.T. Act. A charge sheet was filed and they were released on bail. They are now believed to be absconding. [...]
"If Dalits raised their voice, they were silenced brutally, as a young mother (name withheld) was at Telgaon village in Solapur district in March 2006. She knew she was taking a bold step when she complained against the liquor barons in her village but had no idea that they would use her caste against her. The mother of a child was stripped, beaten, paraded and then kept on 'display' for a few hours. Her child was with her through this humiliation. After media intervention an FIR was filed under the S.C./S.T. Act, but the young woman’s social, emotional and economic support systems had been destroyed. Social pressures forced her husband to abandon her. She has no land and others are unwilling to employ her. Under the Act she is eligible for rehabilitation, but the district administration refused this. Instead, she was told that she could live in a government institution for abandoned women. Her child lives in another such institution. Her case is in the sessions court at Solapur at present."
"Just days after a woman was stripped in public, an influential upper caste landlord ran a car over seven Dalit women for refusing to work in his farmland. The shocking incident took place in Sheikhpura district of Bihar last evening.
"Police said a local landlord Sonu Singh asked a group of female labourers to work in his field at low wages which the latter refused. Sources said, when the Dalit women were returning home in the evening after work, the accused drove his Ambassador car over them, injuring all the seven women. The injured have been admitted to the local government hospital in Sheikhpura.
"This is the third major incident of atrocities on women in the last one week. On Saturday, a Dalit woman was stripped and beaten up after her goat strayed into the field of a landlord in Sitamarhi district."
"More than seven months after Orissa’s tribal-dominated Kandhamal district experienced widespread anti-Christian violence, 3,100 people belonging to the minority community are still living in relief camps being run by the administration.
"About 25,000 people took shelter in 19 relief camps when communal violence was at its peak in the district in the aftermath of the killing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Lakshmanananda Saraswati and four others on August 23 last.
"The number of people living in the camps has decreased slowly but the 3,100 people in six camps are not willing to leave as they are being told by the communal forces that they can return to their homes only as Hindus."
“We did not convert because we are poor. If I am poor but accepted by my community, there is no [social] terror in that poverty.... We did not convert for money. We converted because of the society that saw us as lesser, not worthy. We were ‘lower caste’, ‘untouchable’, ‘lowly’. Now we are Christian. Our god wants us. We can walk into his temple. We are worthy. You understand?” [Spoken by a Dalit convert in Orissa.]
from the publisher:
"This pioneering research was conducted between 2002-2008 in urban and rural settings in the eastern state of Orissa, a primary arena for the onslaught of organized Hindu majoritarianism. Through situated reflection, storytelling, and ethnographic accounts, this genealogical excavation examines Hindutva/Hindu supremacist proliferations in manufacturing imaginative and identitarian agency for violent nationalism."
From Kandhamal to Karavali: The Ugly Face of Sangh Parivar (Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee, Human Rights Forum,
Organisation for Protection of Democratic Rights, Peoples Democratic Forum, Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) Karnataka State Unit, Federation for Peoples Rights, Committee for Protection of Civil Liberties, Peoples Union for Human Rights, Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights)
"This is a report prepared jointly by a number of Rights Organisations and individuals on the large scale violence against Christians in Orissa and Karnataka during August-September 2008. The violence was committed by Sangh Parivar organisations, mainly the Bajrang Dal. Their political wing, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) happens to be in power in both the States, and that has ensured that the police watched benignly as the arson and murder took place in public. The ideology and the organization of their mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), pervades the media in both the States to such an extent that with a few honorable exceptions, the Press has reported the violence in a manner that puts the onus on the victims: they were at fault and had it coming."
"Saroj Lal, 25, was first turned away from the handpump in Adrouni village in Madhya Pradesh, when she approached wearing slippers. A higher caste villager told her Dalits were dirty and not allowed to draw water without first washing their hands and feet.
"He began abusing her over her low caste until she left to complain at the local police station along with her husband and daughter. According to police, the villager, known as Makhan, called six of his friends and headed them off en route. He attacked Saroj, grabbed her baby and threw her to the floor, killing her instantly."
"The number of cases registered under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 was 31,387 in the year 2005, 32,407 in the year 2006 and 35,352 in the year 2007."
"Manish died because he was a member of the Ravidas community, a Dalit sub-caste that has been confined historically to working with leather – a profession deemed unclean by Hindus, for whom cows are sacred.
"Another term by which the group is known, chamar, is considered a grave insult.
"Three months ago the boy sent a letter 'expressing his interest' in a girl from the Dhobi community, another Dalit sub-caste, which has traditionally washed clothes for a living – but is fractionally above the Ravidas in the Hindu hierarchy. The note was discovered by the girl’s parents."
In most parts of India, where water for drinking and irrigation is scarce, control of water sources is an index of class dominance, which is linked in turn to caste status. And in the ritual scheme which legitimizes the caste system, water is a carrier of the pollution that lower castes and untouchables spread.
So water rights in the Indian countryside is a chronic site of caste oppression, which, when resisted—as it increasingly is—often leads to atrocities like the ones collected below, all from the past eleven months. In no way exceptional, these stories stand in for any number of others that might have been chosen, as well as for countless more that surely never made it into the press:
"CHENNAI: Three students were seriously injured in a violent caste clash that broke out between two groups of students at Ambedkar Law College on Wednesday.
"The students waged a pitched battle, even as a posse of policemen waited outside the gates and news photographers clicked pictures.
"Knives, iron rods, wooden logs and tubelights were freely used by the clashing students. The police remained silent spectators, waiting for a call from the college principal for help."
The background of this unbelievable attack is as follows. A group of caste-Hindu students were putting up posters around campus for a celebration related to their own caste. On the posters the name of the college was given as "Government Law College," dropping the name "Dr. Ambedkar." B.R. Ambedkar was an untouchable leader who drafted the Indian constitution. Untouchable students confronted them about the omission, and a fight broke out. The caste-Hindu students threatened to prevent untouchable students from sitting for exams in two weeks' time to teach them a lesson. What happened on the day of the exam is captured in the picture above and even more graphically in the news video at this link: Blood bath in a law college.
"The wave of forced conversions marks a dramatic escalation in a two-month orgy of sectarian violence which has left at least 59 people dead, 50,000 homeless and thousands of houses and churches burnt to the ground. As neighbour has turned on neighbour, thousands more Christians have sought sanctuary in refugee camps, unable to return to the wreckage of their homes unless they, too, agree to abandon their faith.
"Last week, in the worst-affected Kandhamal district, The Observer encountered compelling evidence of the scale of the violence employed in a conversion programme apparently sanctioned by members of one of the most powerful Hindu groups in India, the 6.8-million member Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) - the World Hindu Council."
"In a shocking incident, one person was killed and two were injured when upper caste people allegedly shot at a person hailing from Dalit community who had gone to offer prasad to goddess Durga at Jiyar village of Bihar's Nalanda district."
"Villagers said they were shocked and feared for their lives despite the deployment of security forces two days after the killing of Karu Paswan, a landless Dalit in Jiar-Pindpar village in Nalanda, about 100 km from here.
"'It is like living in water with crocodiles,' Sitwa Devi, a Dalit woman, said in Hindi.
In this commentary S. Anand, publisher of Navayana books, sets the long-awaited verdict against those accused of taking part in the Khairlanji massacre (see anti-caste: KHAIRLANJI MASSACRE (September 29, 2006)) in perspective, and abhors the use of the death penalty—of which untouchables are disproportionate victims—even to punish a crime as inhuman as this one.
"The Khairlanji Verdict, in which six persons were awarded the death penalty for the massacre of dalits, is anything but historic. In treating the massacre as a purely criminal act, it actually masks caste realities."
"Their crime to deserve such treatment was that Phooli Bai resisted two Jat men, who wanted to forcibly take away her 16-year-old daughter, Ramkanya on Monday evening.
"Besides thrashing them, Phooli Bai said that they were stripped in full public view at Sihaar village in Ajmer.
"Phooli Bai said, 'They tore off my daughter's clothes and tried to drag her outside our home. When I tried to save her, they tore off my clothes also. They not only beat us badly but also shamed us in front of the whole village.'
"The tormentors even threw out the Dalit family from the village, threatening them with worse punishment if they told their plight to anyone.
"Since Tuesday the frightened Dalit family is sitting at the office of the Deputy Superintendent of police in Ajmer's Kekri town and they refuse to go back to their village for fear of losing their lives.
"Satya Narayan Kamad, Phooli Bai's husband said, 'As we have complained against them, our fear is that they will kill us. They won't spare us now.'"
"The trouble started when some Dalit labourers were asked by a group of Jats in Mandoda village to cut wheat crop in their fields and they refused. Infuriated by their refusal, the Jats allegedly attacked their homes and fired at their women and children, injuring seven."
"A Dalit was allegedly held captive and thrashed for six days in Nalanda - the home district of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar - after he refused to work in the fields of an upper caste man.
"Not only were his wife and minor daughter forced to work in his place during that time but the family was also turned away by the local police when it tried to lodge a complaint, he has alleged.
"'My only crime was that I refused to work in their fields as they were giving just one kilogram of food grain in return for 10 to 12 hours of toil,' an official at a special police station for Scheduled Castes (SCs) in Biharsharif near here, quoted Manjhi as saying.
"'The helpless and poor like me are not free people. We have to live under the shadow of fear and at the mercy of people like Abhay Singh, who tortured me to teach a lesson to me and others so that we don't raise our voice,' Manjhi told police."
"She said her husband was mercilessly beaten up and asked to leave the village with a warning not to show his face again.
“'The Thakurs [brahmins] do not behave properly with us. It is not just this incident, they do not allow us to fetch water and we are forced to carry our shoes on our heads while passing in front of their houses,' Halki Bai said.
"The immediate provocation for the Thakurs' action was apparently a Dalit smoking without taking permission during a funeral procession. Halki Bai is not the only woman whose husband has been forced out of the village. All male members of the 15 Dalit families in the village have fled and individually reported to the police."