Rajasthan shows why Dalits are so angry

When Dalits are being attacked in the presence of the police in Rajasthan, Dalits can certainly be given the benefit of doubt for not comprehending how some could be misusing the SC/ST (PoA) Act

IANS Photo
IANS Photo
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Bhanwar Meghvanshi

When a Supreme Court bench was busy hearing weighty arguments on the misuse of the SC/ST ( Prevention of Atrocities) Act on April 3, a 40,000 strong mob were setting fire to a Dalit hostel at Hindaun city in Rajasthan. They also set fire to the house of a former minister and Congress leader Bharosi Lal Jatav and to the house of incumbent BJP MLA Rajkumari Jatav, burning the houses to ashes. The unruly mob selectively targeted Dalits and went on a rampage, forcing the administration to impose curfew in the city.

This is the stark reality of Rajasthan today. When Dalits are being attacked in the presence of the police, Dalits need to be given the benefit of doubt for not comprehending how some could be misusing the law.

There has been a steady rise in violence against the Dalits over the last four years. In Nagaur, five Dalits were brutally killed. Kumari Delta Meghwal, a Dalit woman, was raped and murdered. In Bhagega two sisters were raped and humiliated, prompting them to commit suicide. A Dalit legislator Chandrakanta Meghwal beaten up by the police inside a police station. Two Dalit teenagers killed in Alwar. A Dalit police constable Genaram ending his life after chronic harassment in the workplace…the list of atrocities on Dalits is long.

But Dalits in Rajasthan seem to have had enough. Their patience having finally run out, they gave vent to their anger on April 2 during the Bharat Bandh. They have clearly given up on the BJP and are ready to fight it.

The state government took the call for Bharat Bandh lightly, even casually despite advance information. The size of the demonstrations on April 2 caught the police napping and the Intelligence wing appear to have failed to anticipate the extent and intensity of the anger among Dalits. And yet, the demonstrations were largely peaceful. Despite the presence of hundreds of thousands of people on the streets, the incidence of violence and vandalism was relatively low. And most of them can be attributed to provocations following police firing and caning.

But Dalits in Rajasthan seem to have had enough. Their patience having finally run out, they gave vent to their anger on April 2 during the Bharat Bandh. They have clearly given up on the BJP and are ready to fight it

A dangerous trend seen during the Bharat Bandh was the open collusion between the police and elements like the Karni Sena. In places like Jalore, Barmer and Hindaun, this became quite evident. In Jalore, the upper caste mob vandalised an Ambedkar statue and chased Dalit villagers who had arrived to take part in the demonstration in support of Bharat Bandh. Dalits were similarly targeted in other places too such as Neem Ka Thana, Jhunjhunu, Sikar, Aahor and Saanchor.

A 22-year-old Dalit youth Pavan Jhadoli was killed at Arwal in police firing. Two others were injured. Police also targeted protestors at Bharatpur, Bhusawar, Dausa, Ajmer and Jodhpur. At Pushkar, the Pandas assaulted the Dalits. In Jaipur, the state capital, detained Dalits were beaten up in police stations.

Strangely, Dalits have not filed a single case or complaint against violence on them unleashed during the Bharat Bandh. But available information is that in Rajasthan as many as 172 cases have been instituted against protestors. Judging by their past conduct, the BJP Government and the police can be trusted to book Dalits under serious offences.

It can be said that the state government has failed completely in appreciating the unrest among Dalits. It is not surprising because the state government has not been sensitive to even Dalit ministers and legislators. No wonder Dalits of Rajasthan are left seething at the continued discrimination, neglect, double standards and atrocities on them.

The Supreme Court’s latest guideline on the SC/ST Act has unfortunately provided a pretext to the police and the Government to ignore grievances voiced by Dalits and not to act on their complaints. Whatever the apex court might think, the message its ruling has conveyed to the Dalits is that they have been let down even by the highest judiciary in the land; that they are facing an existential crisis and that they have now no option but to fight for their survival.

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