[WSMDiscuss] Why Ensuring Dalit Human Rights Is Still a Tough Task in the 21st Century

Subhash Gatade subhash.gatade at gmail.com
Sat Apr 24 11:42:57 CEST 2021

*Why Ensuring Dalit Human Rights Is Still a Tough Task in the 21 st Century*
Sunped in Haryana and Natham in Tamil Nadu, separated from each other by
hundreds of kilometers, populated by communities speaking different
languages and cultures, find themselves connected because of this 'Unity in
Diversity' of a different kind; being witness to atrocities on Dalits in
very many ways.'
Subhash Gatade <https://www.newsclick.in/author/Subhash%20Gatade>

*"The Smallest Coffins are the Heaviest"*.

Sunped, a small village in Faridabad, Haryana, hit the national headlines
recently once again, when a CBI court gave its verdict in case of the
deaths of two Dalit children.

If memory does not fail you, one would recall that this village had
deaths of two children – two and a half year-old Vaibhav and ten-month-old
Divya – who were burned alive and their parents Rekha and Jitender
suffering burn injuries half a decade ago.

These deaths in a village which had a background of simmering conflict
between dominant castes and Dalits, despite police protection provided to
the ill-fated family, had caused  tremendous uproar at the national level.
Rallies and marches were held in different parts of the state and in the
rest of India as well, demanding justice for the family. A callous
statement by a Union Cabinet Minister about the incident where he argued
the government cannot be held responsible if “someone throws stones at a
dog” had then added further fuel to the fire.

Perhaps to douse popular anger, the state government led by Manohar Lal
Khattar had ordered a CBI enquiry into the case. It also took into custody
eleven members of the dominant caste (namely Rajputs) from Sunped for their
alleged involvement in these killings, based on a complaint by the

The verdict by the CBI court in the case has landed the struggle for
justice in this particular case into a black hole.

It acquitted all the accused in the case, differentiating between “mere
suspicion” against the accused and “grave suspicion”. It is worth quoting
what the single-judge bench of Judge Sushil Kumar Garg said
“..mere suspicion against the aforesaid accused persons is not sufficient
to proceed against them as distinguished from grave suspicion."

The acquittal was a foregone conclusion because in its investigation the
CBI had filed a closure report in 2019 itself, claiming that the statements
by the victims were confusing. This closure was an indirect endorsement of
what the accused had claimed, that they were framed.

The complainants had immediately filed a petition against this closure and
had alleged
investigating agency was “neither active nor careful” in collecting
evidence in the case and did not record the statements of witnesses

At this juncture one cannot gloss over the fact that it had taken too long
for the investigating agency to file its report, a fact which had already
come under the scanner of human rights activists and journalists.

The state government has not yet formally replied to this and has not yet
challenged it in a higher court. It would be the matter of a separate study
whether the CBI could lay its hands on the many gaps in the entire episode
or not.

Whether it probed events
that fateful night when the tragedy occurred – how four of the six
policemen who were guarding the Dalit family from reprisal by the dominant
caste had absented themselves inadvertently – or how the remaining two were
not to be seen near the house when the incident occurred? How did it look
at this strange 'coincidence' and that the house caught fire during the
same period, and whether it was by design or not ?

Whether it tried to analyse the sluggish response of the local police,
which even failed to file a charge sheet against the accused within the
stipulated time which led to them being released on bail within three
months, despite the fact that provisions of the important Scheduled Caste
and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, were invoked in
the case.

Key provisions of the Act have been highlighted again and again, which even
empowers the machinery to declare the area/region 'atrocity prone'; it can
impose a collective fine on them for aiding and abetting violence, or that
even government officials can be booked under Section 4 of the Act for
their willful negligence in the particular case.

One can only imagine what the psychological impact on the accused getting
bail in this case must have had on the morale of the Dalits?

Close watchers of the human rights situation in Haryana would vouch that
the way things unfolded in Sunped was no exception. In fact, over the last
two decades and more the state has been always in the news for growing
atrocities against Dalits and other marginalised sections of society and an
insurmountable battle for justice.

Be it the case from Dulina in Jhajjar
<https://frontline.thehindu.com/social-issues/article30193600.ece>, where
five Dalits were lynched for the 'crime' of carrying the corpse of a dead
cow in the presence of police and other government officials, where the
first cases filed by the police were against the dead Dalits, or the manner
in which Dalits from Harsoula in Kaithal were forced to leave their village
<https://m.tribuneindia.com/2003/20030427/main4.htm> by those from the
dominant caste, for their growing assertion. There was also the case of the
burning of
of Dalit houses in Gohana in Sonepat, supposedly to avenge the death of a
Jat boy in a scuffle with other boys, or the gruesome attack
Dalits in Mirchpur where a 17-year-old Dalit girl and her 60-year-old
father and the subsequent looting and arson of their houses. One can keep a
count of the number of incidents where perpetrators keep evading the law,
all thanks to the active or tacit connivance of law enforcement authorities.

There is no doubt there are occasional victories, like the way the Delhi
High Court convicted 33 accused in the case of Dalit killings in Mirchpur.
"planned attack" by the Jat community against the Valmikis during the
incident which had led to the displacement of 254 families from the
village, it not only upheld the conviction of 13 people who were held
guilty by the trial court, but also convicted 20 more accused who were
previously acquitted by the trial court.

As an aside it needs mentioning that this author has had the personal
experience of visiting a few such places or joining in efforts to bring out
the truth before the wider populace as part of fact-finding teams of civil
liberty activists and writers.

One still remembers vividly what the Dalits in Harsoula had told the Delhi
media when a press conference was organised for them, or how the charge
sheet filed by the CBI which was asked to look into the attack and arson in
Gohana, had clearly exhibited biases and diluted the complete case by
making a mischievous claim
<https://countercurrents.org/dalit-gatade020207.htm>: "... some people in
Valmiki Basti had set their houses on fire themselves, allegedly for
compensation." It finally led to the acquittal of all the accused in the

The debatable claim, lapped up by the media, had completely overshadowed
the fact that Dalit houses in three adjoining localities which numbered
more than a thousand were singled out by the arsonists and that police
officials who were commanding more than two hundred police personnel
remained glued to the main *chauraha* in the town – Jagjivan Chowk – and
later patted themselves on the back for not spilling blood onto the streets.

It is worth recalling what Dalit residents of Pabnava in Kaithal had told a
fact-finding team about the organised attack on their *basti* in the
intervening night of April 13 and 14, 2013, by the local landowning
community, who were armed with spears, batons and other sharp edged
weapons. They had allegedly attacked the *basti* and ransacked more than
200 houses and left six Dalits injured. It was supposedly
<https://www.countercurrents.org/gatade180713.htm>to avenge the 'dishonour'
wrought on them by a Dalit youth who had dared to marry one of “their
girls”. Muzadpur, a village in Hisar district witnessed a Dalit atrocity,
albeit of a less ‘fatal’ nature, after the Sunped incident. Here, members
of the dominant Jat community had thrashed Ramdhari and his family members
and stuffed cow dung inside his mouth. Reports
that the upper caste Jats felt provoked that Ramdhari had installed a
statue of Ambedkar in his house.

It was not reported whether in an area dominated by the upper caste,
Ramdhari’s perpetrators were arrested under specific provisions of the
Prevention of Atrocities Act or not ?

How does one explain such Dalit atrocities of a varied nature in a state
which looks prosperous vis-a-vis many other states?

Atrocities on Dalits in Haryana are explained as an outcome of a society
which perpetuates material deprivation of a large section of Dalits, and
the structural asymmetries inherent in the system. An added explanation
which is also offered underlines the fact that the region does not have a
strong tradition of anti-caste movements or a struggle for the empowerment
of women..

But it is not a satisfactory explanation.

States like Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra, which have long and vibrant
tradition of anti-caste and women's movements, also witness atrocities on
Dalits in various measures.

Sunped in Haryana and Natham in Tamil Nadu, separated from each other by
hundreds of kilometers, populated by communities speaking different
languages and cultures, find themselves connected because of this 'Unity in
Diversity' of a different kind; being witness to atrocities on Dalits in
very many ways.

Perhaps what the Delhi High Court had observed in the famous case of Dalit
atrocities at Mirchpur still rings true at the national level; it had
emphasised how even 73 years after Independence, instances of atrocities
against Dalits by dominant castes have shown no sign of abating. It
underlined the fact that such incidents serve as yet another grim reminder
of "the complete absence of two things in Indian society" as noted by Dr.
B.R. Ambedkar when he tabled the final draft of the Constitution of India
before the Constituent Assembly on November 25, 1949. “One was 'equality'
and the other, fraternity".

Is anybody listening?

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <https://lists.openspaceforum.net/pipermail/wsm-discuss/attachments/20210424/05a10a25/attachment.htm>

More information about the WSM-Discuss mailing list