By Vidya Bhushan Rawat
Dalits of village Bhagana located around 30 kilometer from district Hisar, have been facing social boycott from the powerful Jat community. The other caste Hindus too have fallen in line and stopped all social interaction, economic activities with them. It is beyond our interpretation as why Haryana government is unable to act on the complaint filed by the hundreds of Dalit families who have been thrown away from the village and who are now camping at the Mini Secretariat in Hisar. But, no action has been taken so far even when women, old, children, all suffer in humiliation in village Bhagana seek justice from the district administration.
Haryana’s civic disorder is a great threat to democracy in India if not taken seriously. The story of Bhagana is remarkable in the sense that the Dalits decide to take on the dominant jats head on. They started their protest sitting at the collector’s office in Hisar but when nothing moved, about 120 of them decided to march Delhi naked. Their march started on June 27th in the oppressive heat but their determination forced them to move on and finally they reached Delhi on July 1st, 2012. They formally started their Dharana at the Jantar Mantar from July 2nd 2012 and will not return unless their demands are not met. Many social activists, political leaders, government officials have visited them and expressed their solidarity with their cause. Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda also called them after Congress Party’s General Secretary Rahul Gandhi intervened.
But the unrest in Bhagana has to be seen in broader framework of caste politics of domination by the jats and not merely a law and order problem. It needs to be understood that Jats force people to vote for the parties of their choice and any defiance result in social economic boycott of these communities. The Jat arrogance is so high that added with political power that it is an example how Indian democracy is fast being hijacked by powerful castes or khaps that Ambedkar had visualized about our villages so many years ago. Ambedkar had contested that time very unambiguously that a democracy cannot be a majoritarian concept which our villages were witnessing at the cost of the minorities and marginalized. Ironically, a democratic protest against this illegal action was met with counter violence and police repression and 6 persons were charged with various serious offenses just for burning the effigy of Bhupinder Singh Hooda.
The SC-ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989 is virtually ineffective in Haryana as Dalits dare not to lodge complaint to police station. Even when they try to do so their complaints are not registered and same happened in Hisar. Bhagana’s Dalits went to district collector against the Jat oppression but no action was taken. In Haryana the Jats threaten the Dalits directly without fearing any government action. And it happened on April 8th, when they erected a wall surrounding the Chamar Chowk which blocked the passage to the houses of the Dalits coming from Chamar Mohalla. They had warned the Dalits about this a few days before the incident openly asking them to leave the village or face the music. The wall was erected under the pretext of the implementation of court order which basically asked the Panchayat to protect the Chowk from encroachment. In the name of protection of the Chowk, a huge wall was erected thus blocking the entry of the Dalits to the main road and Chamar Mohalla. The fact is that Chamar Chowk lands falls in the Chamar Mohalla and belong to them. In fact the Chamars are challenging it further in the higher court. It is not a village Panchayat land as was being made out. Secondly, even if it is a village Panchayat land, the people of the mohalla would have equal right over it. How would erecting a wall around it work for the benefit of the community? The wall virtually shut the way out for the families of Suresh, Satywan and Himmat Singh. It was an open call by the Jats for the Dalits to leave the village without any delay or stay put in their homes as there was no chance of these families to come out. This happened on April 8th, 2012 and people went to register their complaint at the collector office and got nothing. Since then they are there. Women, young, older, children are suffering and sacrificing their life for a possible better future but the revengeful state administration does not move.
At the Jantar Mantar, the victims shouts slogan, ‘down with the one caste government’, Down with Khap Panchayat’ ‘Give justice to Dalits in Haryana’. They admit now that they will never accept the khap verdict. All the people assembled in Jantar Mantar are landless dalits who used to work at the field of these farmers and would get Rs 100/- per day. They know well that the Jats were eying 280 acres land which belong to gram panchayat and should have been distributed to landless Dalits. But in this period, when land is for sale and any land under the Gram Panchayat which should be legally distributed to landless Dalits, will automatically grabbed by the power elite of the village. So much is the arrogant that they collected one thousand rupees from each Dalit family in the name of land redistribution of 100 yard plot for each landless family. This open loot by those who consider themselves as rich and powerful is extraordinary. It is these forces who run the Khap Panchayats and kill innocent children for defying their diktats. Thousands of trees in the village Bhagana’s Panchayat land were sold by these oppressive people in violation of environmental laws of the country. They sold it for around 10 lakh rupees as alleged by the villagers.
The Dalits cannot drink water from the Hand Pump of the Jat and other upper caste Hindu families. Once the Khap order boycott of the communities, the auto drivers, local taxi drivers on the public transport too start enforcing this in the form of openly asking the Dalits to get out of their buses, taxis etc. Have any one heard in the modern time that a horse died but it was not allowed to be buried in the village. Hawa Singh Kumhar’s horse died in the village but it could not be buried in Bhagana because the Jats did not allow it to happen. Where will people go to bury their dead animals? A boy’s hands were cut just because he touched the pitcher of a Jat for drinking water.
Hisar has a mini secretariat and all this unconstitutional activities are happening in just 30 kilometer away from there. How can one say that Haryana has a democratic government which is for the people? A slogan at the Jantar Mantar is that they do not want a chief minister of a particular caste? How can a chief minister belong to a particular caste as he has to be for all the citizens of the state? But in Haryana the chief minister has clearly indicated his favoritism for his caste. Unfortunately, none of the other parties are ready to take up the issue of the Dalits for the fear of a Jat revolt against their parties. How will democracy thrive on such antisocial undemocratic norms?
For days, people are sleeping in the open sky. At Jantar Mantar, they live on a meager lunch. Evening meal is no guarantee. All of them suffer in the oppressive heat. Their leader Virendra Singh Bagodia is trying his best to meet the authorities. Yesterday, chief minister had called for a meeting. The people are clear that they would not leave the place unless justice is done. It is painful to see old people suffering in this. Young boys who should have been in the school are sitting on this protest. Where has their right to education gone? Youngsters like Anil Sindhu who has graduated from Hisar are spreading the voice of reasoning and Ambedkar’s vision in the community. For the first time in recent history, such a big revolt against the Khap Panchayats of Harayana has happened and it needs to be complimented. The message from Jantar Mantar is clear that Dalits will not tolerate any Khap Panchayat and its order. They will retaliate against injustice of the village caste Panchayats which impose illegal boycott on them.
Virendra Bagodia want that the Jats must evict the Chamar Chowk and the wall of discrimination must be demolished immediately. All the people who called for the boycott of the Dalit families must be booked under the SC ST Atrocities Act and compensation should be provided to the victim families. For the past six months all the Dalit families are on the ground for justice. They are out of their homes. Who will compensate for them? Harayana government must impose penalty on such khap panchayats and villages which instigate caste hatred and impose caste boycott. The entire 280 acre village Panchayat land must be taken over by the state and must be redistributed among the landless Dalits.
Haryana is a part of Indian Union. The laws of Indian state must be implemented there. If these violations continue to be unabated then the Union Home Ministry must warn Haryana government and center should not hesitate in passing strong message to the state so that such incidents are not repeated. The Dalits of Bhagana must be complimented for their heroic struggle against caste oppression and it is time for rest of India to stand with them in their struggle for self-respect and dignity.