Dalits of Bhagana village seek justice for rape victims
the real cause of tension between the Jats and the Dalits is the war between them for the land rights
Vidya Bhushan Rawat
On March 23rd when India remembers one of its greatest sons Bhagat Singh for his supreme sacrifice for the nation, in Haryana (unfortunately it was part of undivided Pepsu province when Bhagat Singh was executed) four Dalit girls belonging to Balmiki community were abducted from their village by five Jat boys of the same village at 8 in the evening. The girls were going out to fetch water in the evening and they would a white colored car rushing towards them and grabbed them inside the car. All four lost consciousness after getting drugged and raped. Next morning they found themselves at Bhatinda Railway station in neighboring Punjab State in utterly humiliating conditions but they were helpless as they did not know any one and had nothing with them.
The Sarpanch of the village was aware of the incident and was waiting for the families to contact him for ‘help’. After the families got intimation of the disappearance of the girls, all in their teens, the villagers went to the Sarpanch Rakesh who ‘assured’ them that all the girls would return their home by next day. The parents of the girls asked him to help otherwise they would file an FIR in the police station but he was just not ready to help them. Finally, when the villagers and parents of the girls threatened that they were going to lodge the FIR against the disappearance of the girls that the Sarpanch Rakesh and his uncle Virendra informed them that all the girls were at Bhatinda Railway station in Punjab which was about 170 kilometer away from their place. Sarpanch Rakesh accompanied with his uncle Virendra and others left in a car towards Bhatinda and found the girls exactly at the place where the Sarpanch had mentioned to them which clearly indicate that he had known everything in advance. They were terrified and in very bad shape. Immediately, they returned to their home. On their way back home, the Sarpanch stopped the vehicle in Hisar for a ‘tea break’ and put the girls in a room on the first floor. After some time, he went up in the rooms of these girls and threatened them with dire consequences if they speak anything about the incident.
An Administration with caste loyalties
The girls narrated the nightmare to their family persons who decided to go for a medical test of them and fight back. The Jats knew it well that hurting an Indian woman is easier as she would not go for the medical test but these girls have shown extraordinary courage to get justice. The medical test was done at Civil Hospital, Hisar on March 25th. The callous and crude attitude of the doctors at the hospital was visible when they should have taken utmost care of the girls and their families, they were not attended. The families of these children who are in their teens actually reached the Civil hospital by 10 am but the by 1130 pm only one girl could be ‘officially’ ‘checked’. The parents blamed the Superintendent of Police Manisha Chaudhury for not supporting them and threatened them. Strange but true that in India your gender does not matter but your caste identities more than that. The entire ‘medical’ process was completed by mid-night at 1.30 am. No effort was made by the authorities to assure the families of justice. Instead they were asked not to report till last moment. At 2.30 am in the night the SSP Manisha Chaudhury took them for ‘statement’ in front of the ‘judicial magistrate’ under section 164. They were let off after that in mid night when it was raining heavily.
I have seen the documents. Both the FIR and the medical reports are written carelessly. The doctor’s reports are written in highly ‘medical’ language. Poor people may not know what has happened and what has the doctor said in the report. By the time, they come to know, the time is lost. Most of the cases in India have collapsed in the court of law due to negligence by the police and medical authorities. It is not just negligence but purely caste prejudices. It is shameful when India’s women’s movement was trying to hoodwink us that ‘women’ have no castes, the fact is caste and religious identities are more powerful in India than being a ‘woman’ identity and Haryana’s Dalit women have not got that much support from Indian middle classes, women’s movement who were shouting loud at top of their voices after December 16th. It became a pilgrimage for everyone to refer to us about their relations with the ‘movement’ which was purely casteist and communal. Why the nation does not show same kind of restlessness for mass rapes due to caste and communal violence? Is it because the victims are Dalits, Aadivasis and Minorities?
In the meanwhile the victims of Bhagana returned to mini secretariat in Hissar after recording their statement as they were neither in a position to return home nor are they willing to go back there now. There was no consolation, no show of strength by a lady officer. Rather, they were scolded and rebuked. Over 200 villagers have been protesting in the mini secretariat in Hissar for the past two years for the economic social boycott imposed by the Jats on them. The fact is that it was the aim of the Jats to throw the entire community away from the village. The police and administration ultimately filed an FIR on March 25th in the evening but the police did not name the Sarpanch Rakesh and his uncle Virendra in it who are actually the masterminds of the entire operation. Where are our anti rape laws which we have been so powerfully speaking about?
Bhgana’s Dalit families had marched to Delhi last year as on May 21st 2012 they have been thrown away from their village. In the hot summer they came bare-chested when the Jats of the village had imposed an economic sanction on them. It was clear that the Jats were not very happy with the growing assertion and ‘happiness’ of the Dalits. They were cheated first as Rs 1000/- was collected from them in the name of land allotment but that never happened. Huge village land is available in Haryana everywhere but the Jats are forcing the government not to distribute it to the Dalits particularly to the Balmikis. When the Chudhas, Dhanuks, Dhedhs ( all the most marginalized Dalit communities) raised question about their land rights, the Jats threatened with the same consequences like some other communities like Chamars and Kumhars.
Shockingly, the Haryana government of Bhupendra Singh Hooda filed a case of sedition against one of the activist fighting for the rights of the Dalits. It happened with the Dalits were protesting against the callousness of the administration and burnt the effigies of the chief minister. Rather than compensating the Dalits the government and political parties across the spectrum have not taken care of their issues. Dalits are not allowed to visit the temples too if they wish to. Bhagana village’s incident is not alone, the Jats and their Khaps are a threat to very essence of democracy. Now the Khaps of over 58 villages have asked government not to distribute village communal land to Dalits. Actually, the real cause of tension between the Jats and the Dalits is the war between them for the land rights. The land reform have absolutely been failed by the powerful peasantry in India and in the Jat heartland of Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh as well as Rajasthan. The Dalits have been demanding their land rights for years but the Jat resistance is so powerful that no political party is ready to take up the issue for them.
The Dalits of village Bhagana have been on a protest sitting at the Mini Secretariat for over two years and now the police is forcibly evicting them. They came to Delhi and sat on Jantar Mantar in the hope that something would materialize but nothing happened. Now this atrocious and heinous crime against Dalit women in Haryana and things are not moving.
Haryana is a classic case of how Indian democracy function and how India really remained unchanged as far as social structure is concerned in our villages. A story very similar to other ‘progressive states’ such as Gujarat, Tamilnadu and Andhra Pradesh where such kind of economic and social boycott have been a tool in the hands of powerful peasantry to demolish and crush the very identity and dignity of the people.
While the Dalits who remain at the receiving end in Haryana and elsewhere at the hands of Jaats have got nothing but powerful Jaats have been given OBC status. It is shameful that such a powerful and landed community is given such a status which is a clear violation of basic decency of political life. Jats have never considered them as OBC and always took pride in their being Aryan Jamindars, a term which others may not like.
Jantar Mantar’s irony
At the Jantar Mantar, I speak to Jagdish, a young Dalit activist and other elders from village Bhagana who are sitting on the protest from April 16th. The young girls and their parents are there. Most of them are covered. How a tragic that those who commit crime walks openly while those who are victimized have to hide their faces. No police protection, no compensation, no assurances so far. The pain and anger is visible in their eyes as they are fed up with preaching and assurances by ‘leaders’. An old man walks in and begins the conversation in a very ‘informed’ way. ‘You should do ‘this,’ ‘that’ and involve activists, people, media’ in your efforts. ‘You must fight’, he says. This is the battle of dignity of women of India. By this time Jagdish loses his temper, ‘Who are you’, he ask. The old man replies that he was part of December 16th ‘revolution’. It was disgusting to see such idiotic brahmanical mannerism when we all know that the incidents in Haryana need more serious attention of the nation. Jagdish cry at him,’ Yes, Nirbhaya was an upper caste girl so you have pain for her sufferings but what about our sisters who face this humiliation at daily level in Haryana? Where are the people? We are Hindus when you need our vote but Dhanuks when we want to fetch water from the well and where is the media? Why don’t they come and support. Kejriwal belong to Hisar but did not even bother to visit them despite of the fact that we met him once and he absolutely had no assurances for us. No political party including BSP has shown any interest on this issue in these times of politics. Now, some of his colleagues even defended Khap Panchayats even knowing the fact that they have only one meaning in Haryana which is denigrate and humiliate Dalits at all cost. It is not just inter- caste marriages which is being opposed by these Khapists, they have become law unto themselves. Now they are challenging the very essence of being a Dalit. They do not want them to be in their village. If you have to live in the village work as labours and slaves where anything could happen to you and state apparatus would not do anything. The writ of Indian constitution does not work there. Jantar Mantar gives us false hope as it only listens to the brahmanical lies and not to the pains and agony of the Dalits. Jantar Mantar keeps us under the wrong impression that this country is a ‘secular socialist democratic republic’ where we have allowed protests but have we resolved those issues?
Yesterday some students of JNU protested in front of Haryana Bhavan. They will protest for a few more days. We all will get tired with it. We will start thinking them as burden. The state has this habit of making them burden by delaying things so after some time the victim accuse those who stand with them as things do not move accordingly.
Internationalize the issue –
Where do we go? India’s parliamentary democracy has failed Dalits. It has given some of them political representation and some more government jobs, much lower than their actual percentage but it has only tried to coopt them into the structure and did not give them right to live on their own conditions. The National Human Rights Commission, The National Commission for Women, The National Commission for Schedule Castes and the National Commission for Safai Karmcharis, all are autonomous bodies but look helpless and are like any other ‘sarkari’ department. Their working pattern is similar to other government agencies and hence do not really give us hope though for small cases they can do wonders. The state of India is helpless to the Manuwadis violent gangs in the name of social identities. Harayana is India’s biggest scandal not in terms of land dealings but in terms of social chaos and politics of dominance. International agencies, human rights bodies must act. It is time to question India on all the international forums for its inability to implement rule of law in Haryana. The Dalits in Haryana have not got justice. Dalits have not got justice elsewhere. You count any massacre in India of Dalits where they have got justice? The Andhra Pradesh High Court has released all the accused of the Tsunduru violence which was one of the worst massacre of Dalits in Andhra Pradesh. Lakshmanpur Bathe and Bathani Tola in Bihar, Kumher in Rajasthan, caste victims of Dharmapuri, Bant Singh in Punjab etc have got no justice so far. It look justice eludes Dalits in India.
India’s integrity is at stake? India’s constitution is at stake. There is no point celebrating these fake ‘dramas’ of ‘democracy’ when we do not allow our people to live in dignity. It is disgusting, shameful and unbearable. I am writing India because Indian governments look helpless the powerful Jat lobby. It is not the question of which government comes to power in Delhi. Question is whether the Dalits in the villages will have right to live with dignity in their villages. Haryana’s Dalits are seeking the answers from Indian state. It is time the institutions of Indian state function and provides justice to these girls of Dalit community who have become victim of the tyranny of the arrogant upper castes who are roaring for a new set of government which could be anti Dalits. It is the same tyrannical caste which played havoc in Mujaffarnagar and got away with it. It is time to implement the constitution of India in the Jat land otherwise no point in boasting your power of a mighty nation when the original inhabitant of India cannot live in their own country with dignity and respect.
Rape as an instrument of caste dominance
Dalits of Bhagana village seek justice for rape victims