Editor's Note: Discrimination against communities deemed as lower castes is a part-and-parcel of life in rural India. Communities that command power and influence to ostracise and harass the lower castes at will and with impunity as police prove to be of little help. In this four-part series, we attempt to establish the prevalence and gravity of casteism in various states of India, its various forms, why the 'upper castes' prefer this approach and what the conviction rate is for crimes against those belonging to lower castes.
In a stark reminder of the atrocities against those belonging to the lower castes, a Dalit groom in Rajasthan’s Madhopura village was prevented by members of the Jat community from sitting on the mare, citing religious sentiments.
On 20 April, as the procession of Lakshmi’s wedding reached Dudu Thana area of the village, the Jats created a ruckus and restricted the groom from sitting on the mare.
While Raju Lal, father of the bride and other people from the Dalit community opposed this and called the police, members of the Jat community said the procession cannot cross the temple, with the groom still astride the horse. Police intervention brought no relief to the wedding party as the groom had to cross from in front of the temple on foot before getting back on the mare.
Two days after the incident, on 22 April, Lal's son Dinesh was getting married. The people of the Jat community in the village protested against the groom's bindoli — the departure of the wedding party with the groom sitting on the mare —and the owner of the mare was threatened and prevented from entering the village.
After the two such incidents in the village this year, the Dalit community faced a collective social boycott by the upper-caste community. The shopkeepers refused to give the goods to Dalits, the barbers refused to give them a haircut, the milkmen stopped supplying milk to their houses and water tanker owners refused to provide water to them. The Dalit community has alleged that the Jat community threatened to vandalise the water tankers coming from other villages.
In May, members of the Jat community beat up Lal's wife and Dinesh. A First Information Report (FIR) was filed against 17 members of the Jat community and the case is under trial at the special SC-ST court in Jaipur. Mangal Chaudhary, a Jat resident of Madhopura, said the FIR lodged against 17 people is false since four or five of them were not even present in the village on that day.
Raju Lal, a resident of Raigar basti, an illegal settlement, said he built the temple where Dalits are not allowed. He informed that after the rituals and installation of the deity, Dalits were prevented from entering the temple by the upper caste community, citing the social hierarchy.
Chhagan Lal, a Dalit resident of Raigar basti, said they are made to sit on the ground in an upper caste wedding, while the other castes sit on chairs. He informed that members of upper castes do not even attend weddings to which they are invited the Dalit community.
A senior sociologist, on the condition of anonymity, said there fights among different classes of people not only in the society but in the government, administration and even private offices. “Since the animal (horse or mare) is associated with monarchy, there are many implications of sitting on it. Keeping a mare is an indicator of prosperity. Therefore, whenever a Dalit is seen riding on a horse or a mare, it is not tolerated by a lot of people,” the sociologist said.
Life after boycott
The communication between the Dalits and Jats is still on hold. For water worth Rs 250, Dalits have to pay Rs 400 to the water tankers that come from a village six kilometres away. Situated under Dantri gram panchayat of Jaipur district, Madhopura has about 150 households of the Jat community, 35 houses of Dalit community and about 40 houses of other castes — Rajput, Kumhar, Vaishnava and Bagaria.
Dinesh Lal, son of Raju Lal, said when they were in school, there were separate lines for upper-caste children and Dalits. He mentioned that even today, Dalit children are called by their caste names. He added that when the members of the Jat community had beaten him up, they had used abusive language against him.
Ritu, a school student, said while there is no discrimination in the school, children of Jat community use abusive language against them. She revealed that the children belonging to the Jat community don’t play with them or give them food to eat in their utensils.
Kailash Sen, an upper-caste resident, said there isn’t any boycott in place and it’s the shopkeeper's decision on who he chooses to sell his goods to. He informed that the shopkeepers only refused to give goods on credit to Dalits. Talking about the incident involving the wedding processions, Chauthu Ram Chaudhary, another upper-caste resident, said the religious rituals will have to be followed by everyone. He claimed the residents of Raigar basti called the police and made the case bigger than it actually was.
Rajendra Singh, the sarpanch of Madhopura village, said it was a simple matter which became a case of ego clashes for both communities. There are five villages in Dantari Gram Panchayat, but there is no discrimination or untouchability anywhere, he claimed while adding that this was the first incident of its kind in Madhopura.
Recently, a video of a Dalit being beaten up in Pali district went viral on social media. Media reports of discrimination against Dalits are frequent from several districts such as Bhilwara, Chittorgarh and Jhunjhunu.
Over 50 percent cases pending
Dalit atrocities are increasing in Rajasthan. A total of 2,371 cases of atrocities committed against Scheduled Castes (SC) have been filed between January and May. Out of these, 33 are murder cases and 201 rape cases. 42 cases have been registered under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, and 2,083 cases are registered under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Police investigation is going on in 1,212 cases, while 51.12 percent of the cases remain pending.
In 2018, 4,607 cases of torture against SCs were registered, 4,238 in 2017 and 5,135 in 2016. In 2018, 117 cases were registered under the SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
As mentioned in the first story of the series, the director of Dalit Manav Adhikar Kendra said setting up of social justice committees under the Gram Panchayat Raj Act, 1995 has not been taken up seriously. Kumar added that a high-level Vigilance and Monitoring Committee for the protection of Dalits in Rajasthan has not been convened since 2012.
According to data by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), in 2016, only 25 cases of crimes against SCs were registered under the Protection of Civil Rights Act as compared to 40,718 cases registered under the SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
Srinivas Janga Rao, Additional Director General of Police (Civil Rights), revealed that fewer cases are registered under the Protection of Civil Rights Act because the sentence and penalty are very low, so the cases are registered by the police under the SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
Rao added that though there has been a reduction in cases of discrimination against Dalits, such practices are still prevalent in several areas of Rajasthan. He noted that there haven’t been any major incidents in the last few years as the police take immediate action on the complaint. Apart from this, if such incidents happen, the Rajasthan Police’s Peace Committee, which is headed by district-level officers, is put into action, he informed.
Navdeep Singh, former director general of police, said the force has been working efficiently, and a lot of positive changes are taking place. He said the judicial system is very slow and it takes time to arrive at a verdict. “The biggest thing is that our system is evolutionary, not revolutionary, that's why it takes time to change,” he said.
(Author is Jaipur-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters)
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Updated Date: Aug 07, 2019 23:43:48 IST