This morning, a middle-aged Dalit woman from Mangta village in Kanpur Dehat was going to a farm to relieve herself when she was attacked by a masked man with a "poisonous powder" that caused her to pass out. The incident occurred around 6 am. She was found lying in the bushes a few hours later. The woman was first taken to the district hospital after which she was referred to Hallett Hospital in Kanpur Town. She regained consciousness in the second half of the day.
This is the her recollection: "I saw a car. As soon as I sat down, a man alighted. His face was covered. He began abusing me and called me "chamaran". He said they 'couldn't hit us in the fight the other day but today they'd take revenge wholeheartedly'. He said, 'Bhim ka naam kehna band naa karwa diya tum logon se, toh mai bhi Thakur nahin.'"
The woman's husband said, "She told us that there was only one person involved who said 'bahut zyada bodh katha sunti ho na, abb nahin sun paogi' before throwing the powder at her." The husband looked afraid. "There are cops in every part of the village. How could this happen?," he asked. "We will now have to think twice even before going to relieve ourselves. What kind of life is this?"
According to Kumar, a local, most farms are owned by upper caste men and Dalits often have to relieve themselves in the fields.
Anurag Vats, Superintendent of Police, Kanpur Dehat, said, "The woman was found unconscious. People started a rumour that she was raped by multiple upper caste men. We have caught some people who have spread this rumour. Such things only spreads discord between communities." An FIR has been registered in the case and the powder has been sent for analysis, Vats added.
Mangta village has been tense since early February, when local Dalit leader Amit Kumar organised a week-long programme called Bhim Katha. Chandu Singh, a Thakur from the village, claimed "derogatory" words were used for upper castes during the programme. He cited this example of a derogatory slogan: "Na koi Ramayana, na koi Purana, iss desh ko chala raha hai keval Ambedkar ka samvidhan".
Just days earlier — on 4 February — saw a heated argument between two communities. There was a wedding in a Thakur household and they'd asked that the Bhim Katha be stopped for a "few hours." Kumar, the organiser of the programme, refused. "How could we stop the programme just because there was a wedding two kilometres away?" Kumar asked. "There was an audience of 400 to 500 people. We couldn't just stop it. That also angered them."
On 12 February, some youths, allegedly from the Thakur families, retaliated by ripping up a poster of BR Ambedkar during a Shobha Yatra held by the Dalit community. A day later, members of the two communities engaged in a verbal back and forth in the morning. Then, around 9 am, two areas where Dalit families live were attacked and several women and children assaulted with "hammers" and "lathis". Many women suffered head injuries and others had their bones broken. A five-year-old suffered a fracture of his left hand. It was this incident that the assailant was referring to.
Of the 28 admitted to hospital, only three were men. The police arrested 13, all from the upper caste. Suresh Singh, the husband of the former pradhan of the village, explained what happened, "A stupid 14-year-old kid tore that poster in fun and games. All the tensions arose because of this. It was nothing, We would have replaced that one poster with three more posters, but they thought we'd disrespected them and they simply refused to listen to us."
A week of calm followed. And then today's incident occurred.
Dalit leader Usha Rani Kori visiting the woman at the hospital, said, "It's very sad. I cannot fathom how these incidents still occur. The woman was conscious, but she couldn't speak much or even remember her family well." Kori claimed the BJP-led government's "caste-based politics" was responsible for such incidents.
Alok Prasad Pasi, chairperson of the Scheduled Caste Department of Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee, said the Uttar Pradesh Police had failed to protect the woman. Pasi said, "The Dalit community was silently conducting a programme which irked the upper caste community. A clash was stopped once with police intervention, but on 13 February, a Thakur mob openly attacked the Dalits. While visiting the victims, the police assured us that security arrangements have been made in order to avoid a repeat of any such incidents. But how is it that a woman was attacked in broad daylight?"
Pasi, referring to three recent cases in Faizabad, Ayodha and Gorakhpur, said Dalits across Uttar Pradesh are being oppressed. In Ayodha, a Dalit girl was raped, and committed suicide after police took no action for three days, Pasi said. Pasi added that in Gorakhpur, a rape occurred in the police station near Chief Minister's Yogi Adityanath's residence."They talk about women's safety. The girl was kidnapped and raped by two men in police uniform. She was admitted in the hospital. When I reached there, she told me she clearly saw her rapists were two policemen. She kept asking for a parade so she could identify them, but that hasn't happened," Pasi said.
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Updated Date: Feb 22, 2020 12:07:56 IST