Upper caste Rajputs allegedly set fire to the home of a Dalit family in Sunpedh, a village in Faridabad near Delhi, in the early hours of Tuesday, killing both the sleeping children inside aged 2 years and 9 months while their parents have suffered severe burn injuries.
Police said the attack was an act of revenge that was born out of a year long tussle over a mobile phone.
Vaibhav, 3, and his nine-month-old sister Divya were brought to Safdarjung Hospital around 3 am with 60-70 per cent thermal burns. Both were declared dead. Their mother Rekha, 23, is critical.
Their father Jitender suffered burn injuries on his palms, he has been discharged.
“The attackers were Rajputs and they had a confrontation with Dalits over a murder in October last year. They barged into our home when we were sleeping and they poured petrol from the window after locking our door from the outside. I could smell petrol and tried to wake up my wife, but by then the fire had started. My children died in the fire,” Jitender told The Indian Express.
Following tension in the village, all shops were closed and heavy police force was deployed in the area.
Deputy Commissioner of Police, Ballabgarh, Bhupinder Singh said that the situation in the area was tense but under control.
In Chandigarh, a state government spokesman said that three accused - Balwant, Dharam Singh and Kartar of Ballabgarh - have been arrested.
He said that four policemen, who were among the seven police personnel deployed with the victim family for security, have been suspended.
"Constables Bali Mohammed, Vikas and Sandeep have been placed under suspension for dereliction of duties because they failed to protect the victims as they were deployed for the security of victim's family.
"Inspector Anil Kumar, officer-in-charge of police station Sadar Ballagbarh, has been placed under suspension for dereliction of duties,” the spokesman said.
The Haryana government has announced financial assistance of Rs.10 lakh to the family.
Police said that an incident that took place on October 5, 2014, when three people were killed in clashes between two groups of the village, may have led to Tuesday's arson.
Nineteen people were booked for the triple murder including three members of Jitender's family after the 2014 violence.
Police have detained four people -- Balwant, Kartar, Guddu and another relative -- over the incident. All four belong to the influential Balu Rajput camp in Sunped village in Faridabad district.
The Sunpedh village near Ballabgarh is home to around 5,000 people who are a mix of high-caste Rajputs or Thakurs and the Dalits. While there are 300 Rajput or Thakur families, 100 houses belong to Dalits.
According to villagers and senior police officers, a bitter rivalry has been on for almost three decades between the Rajput Balu family and the Dalit Lalji camp.
The Balu camp comprises rich landlords (farmers) of Sunped village while the Lalji camp members are mostly in government service, including in telecom sector and armed forces -- a few of the latter are also in law and medical professions, said an elderly villager adding that the fight betwen them is one of one-upmanship.
"We do not have any problem with the rest of the villagers," Jitender's cousin Surender told IANS, adding that only the Balu camp doesn't want to see them in the village.
He said Jitender, who runs a clinic in Ballabgarh, had returned to the village around six months back after leaving the village with his family following an October 5, 2014 clash in which three people from the Balu camp were killed.
With inputs from IANS
Updated Date: Oct 21, 2015 08:10 AM