[Reader-list] Dalits of Bhagana village seek justice for rape victims

Asit Das asit1917 at gmail.com
Fri Apr 25 07:05:38 CDT 2014

Dalits of Bhagana village seek justice for rape victims


*By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*

*Rape as an instrument of caste dominance*

On March 23rd when India remembers one of its greatest sons Bhagat Singh
for his supreme sacrifice for the nation, in Haryana (unfortunately it was
part of undivided Pepsu province when Bhagat Singh was executed) four Dalit
girls belonging to Dhanak community were abducted from their village by
five Jat boys of the same village at 8 in the evening. The girls were going
out to fetch water in the evening and they would a white colored car
rushing towards them and grabbed them inside the car. All four lost
consciousness after getting drugged and raped. Next morning they found
themselves at Bhatinda Railway station in neighboring Punjab State in
utterly humiliating conditions but they were helpless as they did not know
any one and had nothing with them.

The Sarpanch of the village was aware of the incident and was waiting for
the families to contact him for ‘help’.

After the families got intimation of the disappearance of the girls, all in
their teens, the villagers went to the Sarpanch Rakesh who ‘assured’ them
that all the girls would return their home by next day. The parents of the
girls asked him to help otherwise they would file an FIR in the police
station but he was just not ready to help them. Finally, when the villagers
and parents of the girls threatened that they were going to lodge the FIR
against the disappearance of the girls that the Sarpanch Rakesh and his
uncle Virendra informed them that all the girls were at Bhatinda Railway
station in Punjab which was about 170 kilometer away from their place.

Sarpanch Rakesh accompanied with his uncle Virendra and others left in a
car towards Bhatinda and found the girls exactly at the place where the
Sarpanch had mentioned to them which clearly indicate that he had known
everything in advance. They were terrified and in very bad shape.
Immediately, they returned to their home. On their way back home, the
Sarpanch stopped the vehicle in Hisar for a ‘tea break’ and put the girls
in a room on the first floor. After some time, he went up in the rooms of
these girls and threatened them with dire consequences if they speak
anything about the incident.

*An Administration with caste loyalties*

The girls narrated the nightmare to their family persons who decided to go
for a medical test of them and fight back. The Jats knew it well that
hurting an Indian woman is easier as she would not go for the medical test
but these girls have shown extraordinary courage to get justice. The
medical test was done at Civil Hospital, Hisar on March 25th. The callous
and crude attitude of the doctors at the hospital was visible when they
should have taken utmost care of the girls and their families, they were
not attended. The families of these children who are in their teens
actually reached the Civil hospital by 10 am but the by 1130 pm only one
girl could be ‘officially’ ‘checked’. The parents blamed the Superintendent
of Police Manisha Chaudhury for not supporting them and threatened them.
Strange but true that in India your gender does not matter but your caste
identities more than that. The entire ‘medical’ process was completed by
mid-night at 1.30 am. No effort was made by the authorities to assure the
families of justice. Instead they were asked not to report till last
moment. At 2.30 am in the night the SSP Manisha Chaudhury took them for
‘statement’ in front of the ‘judicial magistrate’ under section 164. They
were let off after that in mid night when it was raining heavily.

I have seen the documents. Both the FIR and the medical reports are written
carelessly. The doctor’s reports are written in highly ‘medical’ language.
Poor people may not know what has happened and what has the doctor said in
the report. By the time, they come to know, the time is lost. Most of the
cases in India have collapsed in the court of law due to negligence by the
police and medical authorities. It is not just negligence but purely caste
prejudices. It is shameful when India’s women’s movement was trying to
hoodwink us that ‘women’ have no castes, the fact is caste and religious
identities are more powerful in India than being a ‘woman’ identity and
Haryana’s Dalit women have not got that much support from Indian middle
classes, women’s movement who were shouting loud at top of their voices
after December 16th. It became a pilgrimage for everyone to refer to us
about their relations with the ‘movement’ which was purely casteist and

Why the nation does not show same kind of restlessness for mass rapes due
to caste and communal violence? Is it because the victims are Dalits,
Aadivasis and Minorities?

In the meanwhile the victims of Bhagana returned to mini secretariat in
Hissar after recording their statement as they were neither in a position
to return home nor are they willing to go back there now. There was no
consolation, no show of strength by a lady officer. Rather, they were
scolded and rebuked. Over 200 villagers have been protesting in the mini
secretariat in Hissar for the past two years for the economic social
boycott imposed by the Jats on them. The fact is that it was the aim of the
Jats to throw the entire community away from the village.  The police and
administration ultimately filed an FIR on March 25th in the evening but the
police did not name the Sarpanch Rakesh and his uncle Virendra in it who
are actually the masterminds of the entire operation. Where are our anti
rape laws which we have been so powerfully speaking about?

Bhgana’s Dalit families had marched to Delhi last year as on May 21st 2012
they have been thrown away from their village. In the hot summer they came
bare-chested when the Jats of the village had imposed an economic sanction
on them. It was clear that the Jats were not very happy with the growing
assertion and ‘happiness’ of the Dalits. They were cheated first as Rs
1000/- was collected from them in the name of land allotment but that never
happened. Huge village land is available in Haryana everywhere but the Jats
are forcing the government not to distribute it to the Dalits particularly
to the Dhanuks and Balmikis. When the Chudhas, Dhanuks, Dhedhs (all the
most marginalized Dalit communities) raised question about their land
rights, the Jats threatened with the same consequences like some other
communities like Chamars and Kumhars.

Shockingly, the Haryana government of Bhupendra Singh Hooda filed a case of
sedition against one of the activist fighting for the rights of the Dalits.
It happened with the Dalits were protesting against the callousness of the
administration and burnt the effigies of the chief minister. Rather than
compensating the Dalits the government and political parties across the
spectrum have not taken care of their issues. Dalits are not allowed to
visit the temples too if they wish to. Bhagana village’s incident is not
alone, the Jats and their Khaps are a threat to very essence of democracy.
Now the Khaps of over 58 villages have asked government not to distribute
village communal land to Dalits. Actually, the real cause of tension
between the Jats and the Dalits is the war between them for the land
rights. The land reform have absolutely been failed by the powerful
peasantry in India and in the Jat heartland of Haryana and Western Uttar
Pradesh as well as Rajasthan. The Dalits have been demanding their land
rights for years but the Jat resistance is so powerful that no political
party is ready to take up the issue for them.

The Dalits of village Bhagana have been on a protest sitting at the Mini
Secretariat for over two years and now the police is forcibly evicting
them.  They came to Delhi and sat on Jantar Mantar in the hope that
something would materialize but nothing happened. Now this atrocious and
heinous crime against Dalit women in Haryana and things are not moving.

Haryana is a classic case of how Indian democracy function and how India
really remained unchanged as far as social structure is concerned in our
villages. A story very similar to other ‘progressive states’ such as
Gujarat, Tamilnadu and Andhra Pradesh where such kind of economic and
social boycott have been a tool in the hands of powerful peasantry to
demolish and crush the very identity and dignity of the people.

While the Dalits who remain at the receiving end in Haryana and elsewhere
at the hands of Jaats have got nothing but powerful Jaats have been given
OBC status. It is shameful that such a powerful and landed community is
given such a status which is a clear violation of basic decency of
political life. Jats have never considered them as OBC and always took
pride in their being Aryan Jamindars, a term which others may not like.

*Jantar Mantar’s irony*

At the Jantar Mantar, I speak to Jagdish, a young Dalit activist and other
elders from village Bhagana who are sitting on the protest from April 16th.
The young girls and their parents are there. Most of them are covered.

How a tragic that those who commit crime walks openly while those who are
victimized have to hide their faces. No police protection, no compensation,
no assurances so far. The pain and anger is visible in their eyes as they
are fed up with preaching and assurances by ‘leaders’. An old man walks in
and begins the conversation in a very ‘informed’ way. ‘You should do
‘this,’ ‘that’ and involve activists, people, media’ in your efforts. ‘You
must fight’, he says. This is the battle of dignity of women of India. By
this time Jagdish loses his temper, ‘Who are you’, he asks.  The old man
replies that he was part of

December 16th ‘revolution’. It was disgusting to see such idiotic
brahmanical mannerism when we all know that the incidents in Haryana need
more serious attention of the nation. Jagdish cry at him,’ Yes, Nirbhaya
was an upper caste girl so you have pain for her sufferings but what about
our sisters who face this humiliation at daily level in Haryana? Where are
the people? We are Hindus when you need our vote but Dhanuks when we want
to fetch water from the well and where is the media? Why don’t they come
and support. Kejriwal belong to Hisar but did not even bother to visit them
despite of the fact that we met him once and he absolutely had no
assurances for us. No political party including BSP has shown any interest
on this issue in these times of politics. Now, some of his colleagues even
defended Khap Panchayats even knowing the fact that they have only one
meaning in Haryana which is denigrate and humiliate Dalits at all cost. It
is not just inter- caste marriages which is being opposed by these
Khapists, they have become law unto themselves. Now they are challenging
the very essence of being a Dalit. They do not want them to be in their
village. If you have to live in the village work as labours and slaves
where anything could happen to you and state apparatus would not do
anything. The writ of Indian constitution does not work there. Jantar
Mantar gives us false hope as it only listens to the brahmanical lies and
not to the pains and agony of the Dalits. Jantar Mantar keeps us under the
wrong impression that this country is a ‘secular socialist democratic
republic’ where we have allowed protests but have we resolved those issues?

Yesterday some students of JNU protested in front of Haryana Bhavan. They
will protest for a few more days. We all will get tired with it. We will
start thinking them as burden. The state has this habit of making them
burden by delaying things so after some time the victim accuse those who
stand with them as things do not move accordingly.

*Internationalize the issue:*

Where do we go? India’s parliamentary democracy has failed Dalits. It has
given  some of them political representation and some more government jobs,
much lower than their actual percentage but it has only tried to coopt them
into the structure and did not give them right to live on their own
conditions. The National Human Rights Commission, The National Commission
for Women, The National Commission for Schedule Castes and the National
Commission for Safai Karmcharis, all are autonomous bodies but look
helpless and are like any other ‘sarkari’ department. Their working pattern
is similar to other government agencies and hence do not really give us
hope though for small cases they can do wonders. The state of India is
helpless to the Manuwadis violent gangs in the name of social identities.
Harayana is India’s biggest scandal not in terms of land dealings but in
terms of social chaos and politics of dominance. International agencies,
human rights bodies must act. It is time to question India on all the
international forums for its inability to implement rule of law in Haryana.
The Dalits in Haryana have not got justice. Dalits have not got justice
elsewhere. You count any massacre in India of Dalits where they have got
justice? The Andhra Pradesh High Court has released all the accused of the
Tsunduru violence which was one of the worst massacre of Dalits in Andhra

Lakshmanpur Bathe and Bathani Tola in Bihar, Kumher in Rajasthan, caste
victims of Dharmapuri, Bant Singh in Punjab etc have got no justice so far.
It look justice eludes Dalits in India.

India’s integrity is at stake? India’s constitution is at stake. There is
no point celebrating these fake ‘dramas’ of ‘democracy’ when we do not
allow our people to live in dignity. It is disgusting, shameful and
unbearable. I am writing India because Indian governments look helpless the
powerful Jat lobby. It is not the question of which government comes to
power in Delhi. Question is whether the Dalits in the villages will have
right to live with dignity in their villages. Haryana’s Dalits are seeking
the answers from Indian state. It is time the institutions of Indian state
function and provides justice to these girls of Dalit community who have
become victim of the tyranny of the arrogant upper castes who are roaring
for a new set of government which could be anti Dalits. It is the same
tyrannical caste which played havoc in Mujaffarnagar and got scot free. It
is time to implement the constitution of India in the Jat land otherwise no
point in boasting your power of a mighty nation when the original
inhabitant of India cannot live in their own country with dignity and

*Two Circles*
“Caste is enforced through Dalit women’s bodies”


*By TCN News,*

Cambridge, Massachusetts: Dalits are at the bottom of caste hierarchy in
India and the caste system is enforced through Dalit women’s bodies in the
form of violence and abuse, said activists Asha Kotwal and Thenmozhi
Soundarajan, who were in town to give details about a month-long “Dalit
Mahila Swabhiman Yatra” in India.

Asha Kowtal, General Secretary of the India based All India Dalit Mahila
Adhikar Manch (AIDMAM) and Thenmozhi Soundararajan, an activist and
filmmaker based in New York presented a report back to a full house at MIT
on a self-respect march they participated in India in Feb-Mar this year.
The event was sponsored by Association for India’s Development (MIT &
Boston chapters) and Ambedkar International Center.

Called the "Dalit Mahila Swabhiman Yatra" or the "Dalit Women's
Self-Determination March,” the journey covered 4 states in north India and
lasted more than a month, from Feb 17 to Mar 12. Aimed to put "political
pressure on officials, call out perpetrators and raise the continued cry
for justice," the march was an expression of "issues regarding caste and

"This is not a new situation for Dalit women in India," Soundararajan said,
referring the cases of sexual violence that has afflicted women of the
lower caste."This is a war fought with bodies of Dalit women."

Beginning their presentation with an explanation of caste hierarchy in
India, they explained that Dalits, which means "broken," were the former
untouchables outside the pale of the traditional four classes in Hinduism.

They also drew linkages between the traditional castes and the control of
resources - with the upper castes cornering the lion's share.

It is this hierarchy with Dalits at the bottom that also gives rise to a
mindset of control. "Caste and patriarchy operate together," Kowtal said.
"The mindset of the upper classes is very clear - the lower social status
of Dalit women is equal to their being of a low character," she added.

The idea of the march had its genesis in the gruesome incidents of violence
against Dalit women in Sep-Oct 2012 in the state of Haryana. "It was a
journey for justice to create a space for duty bearers and also provide
space for survivors to reclaim their dignity," Kowtal explained.

"It was an emotive capacity-building process," Soundararajan added, "The
Dalit women were making a statement that they would no longer be in

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