Caste, Untouchability And Discrimination
Led To The Balaudi incident
Report of the fact finding team
02 August, 2010
A joint fact finding report by Dalit Mukti Morcha and PUCL Chhattisgarh
On 17th August 2010 there was an incident of mob violence in Balaudi village near Palari tehsil of Raipur district. On 18th the newspapers reported it as an issue between two groups in the village. The village is situated approximately at a distance of 75 kms from Raipur headquarters. Followed by this Dalit Mukti Morcha and People’s Union for Civil Liberties jointly constituted a Fact Finding Investigation team to investigate the entire issue.
The team consisted of –
1. Vibhishan Patre
2. Guddu Lahre
3. Kiran Kumar Burman
4. Saroj Lahre
5. Vijay Raj Baudh
6. Goldy M. George
The team visited the village on 22nd August 2010 and met with the people from both the sides. The team further interacted with the Nayab Tehsildar Mr. Pradhan, Thana Inspector Palari Mr. Anoop Nag, ASI Mr. Kanwar, policemen at the Police Station, policemen deployed in the village to avert any further incidences, kotwar of the village, kotwars from other villages, revenue officials etc.
I. Facts of the Incident
a) The village consists of 40% Satnami, while the remaining population hail mostly from OBC groups such as Kurmi, Kosta (Dewangan), Dobhi, Sahu, Yadav and other groups. A small number of Adivasis are also present in the village.
b) At the very entry of the village one could observe that there is no proper road. It’s completely a muddy patch, with ditches filled with water, broken narrow lanes leading towards both the Satnami basti and other habitations. In brief this village hasn’t seen the benefits of the much acclaimed development programmes by the state government.
c) The present tension was on nearly 65 (approximately 72) acres of government land that has remained under the possession of Satnamis for some time. This is the only Dalit community.
d) From the statement of both Dalits and non-Dalits it was clear that on 16th August the non-Dalit had a meeting in which it was decided that the 65 acres of possession would be cleared the next day. To clear the possession it was decided to graze the standing crop by letting the cattle, free to graze on the 65 acres disputed land. It is also to be noted that the Satnamis were not involved in this meetings; neither they were invited or even when invited they refused to participate in such meetings.
e) The next day around 11.30 am, the non-Dalits numbering 200-250 took their cattle to graze the land in dispute. Hearing the news some Satnamis numbering 25-30 ran to the fields. Soon the field turned into the battlefield which ended up in the killing of 2 non-Dalits and seriously injuring a few others.
f) Police and other official arrived at the village in a short while. All the wounded were taken to the hospital, one succumbed to death on the way to the hospital and another died after reaching the hospital. Two more persons have got serious injuries. Among the dead one was Maniram Kanaujiye, the father-in-law of the Sarpanch and another was Panchram Sahu.
II. Grooming Caste Undercurrents
a) Caste discrimination, untouchability and narrow mindedness gave birth to revenge, resentment and antagonism against Dalits. As a part of it several anti-Dalit activities and deeds were galvanised.
b) This incident is not an isolated case in itself. There had been a series of incidences in the village since long. The recent incident comes as part of the existing undercurrents of casteism between the Dalits and non-Dalits. Both the Nayab Tehsildar Pradhan and Thana Inspector Anoop Nag, who had been camping in the village commented that they had observed the same within a few days of camping and interaction with the people.
c) The Tehsildar informed that the Satnamis had been holding the land for the past 15-20 years. Last year the Tehsildar notified the occupants not to cultivate the land and the Dalits left the land for cattle grazing. However this year the Dalit prepared the fields and sow the seed. This was the reason of the present tension.
d) Last year a similar tension arose. Due to the timely in intervention efforts of the Tehsildar and TI it was averted. Both the sides had come to an agreement to leave all illegal possession. The Satnams didn’t cultivate the land while some non-Dalits also broke their houses constructed on occupied land. However the non-Dalits didn’t leave the cultivable land under their possession, which is estimated to be nearly 250 acres.
e) While interacting with the villagers the team members came across several incidences of the past. According to Harbansh Kanujiye in 1977 there was an incident between the Satnamis and rest of the village. This surrounded on the land being allotted to the Kotwar (village messenger cum watchman). Roman Kanaujiya said the Kotwar (a Satnami) was allotted 10 acres of by the revenue department in lieu of his services and was told by the Tehsildar to occupy any of the vacant government land. Accordingly he occupied some vacant land which invited the ire of the OBCs. The OBCs revolted and retaliated. The OBCs forced him to vacate this land and redistributed among themselves under the pretext of homestead land. The Kotwar went to the court and after years of legal battle he won the case, said Ramesh Banjare. However the land provided was not the same that was allotted earlier.
f) Mantram Baghel said that there are several instances of caste discrimination and untouchability practices continued till today. In 1980 Kalyandas Ghritlahare became the Sarpanch. There were no reservations in Panchayat elections. He won against the OBCs and therefore it invited their hostility very naturally. From there onwards the OBCs created lots of problems for the Satnamis in the village. Every effort was made by the OBCs to topple the decisions made by the Sarpanch due to the same caste feeling. It was a difficult phase for Kalyandas as well as other Satnamis.
g) Roman Kanaujiye and Satish Kanaujiya said that there was a clash between the Satnamis and rest of the village in 1993 during the Diwali festival season. They mentioned that during the Gauri-Gaura (a local festival celebrated by Adivasis and some OBC groups) visharjan there was a procession taken out during which there is a custom to flog on one’s hand and body with a twin-cord. In this procession the Satnamis also came to be flogged and stretched hand on which the others objected. This turned a big issue and there was a clash between the two groups. Purushotam Baghel said that one Ramesh Bharti who had a tailoring shop was hit on his head for no reason. Another Baret (a surname of Dhobi) boy was also injured in this clash.
h) The team met with Ramesh Bharti who is at present both physically and mentally disabled. The Dalits informed that his present condition of disability is only after the 1993 incident after which he wasn’t able to continue with his tailoring shop. Ajay Banjare continued to say that there was a case in this connection in which a compromise was finally reached in the presence of senior police as well as administrative officials for the continuity of peace in the village. Roman Kanujiye also expressed the same that the issue was settled through a compromise between the two parties.
i) This was followed with another incident in which two houses of Satnamis were broken due to pressure of the Panchayat under the context of illegal occupation. The OBCs pressurised the Panchayat authorities to mobilise the revenue authorities and accordingly the houses were grounded.
j) While the Tehsildar maintained that the possession of Satnamis on land was from the past 15-20 years, the OBCs said that it was occupied only after the introduction of hareli-saheli yojana (a scheme introduced by the government of Chhattisgarh during the time of Ajit Jogi as Chief Minister). Roman Kanaujiya said that it was only after the programme that the Dalits began to posses this land. However the Dalits differed on this.
k) Ramesh Ghritlahre explained that the land was under the possession of the Satnamis for long. The harelip-saheli programme was meant for the entire village under which 13 families were given 3 acres of land each, to make a total of 39 acres. Therefore this argument seems to be face. Out of this some are OBCs too. However the issue is different, he continues. This 65 (or 72) acres of land is a single plot. The OBCs hold nearly 270 acres of land in this village in different parts which hasn’t been counted at all. Since it is in different locations, it is can’t be traced easily. There has been no investigation on this. Every time there is a dispute on illegal occupation, it is only talked about the land possessed by the Satnamis. Should only the Satnamis leave their land? No single authority had spoken about the land held by the OBCs in an illegal manner. The fact is that we had never complained against their occupation with any authority however the OBCs keep complaining against our possession. Ramesh raised the question, “if our 65 acres land is grazing land then what is theirs?”
l) Another fact that some people who were had also taken the matter to the Chief Minister’s office on which the CM has produced a letter with a direction to the appropriate authorities not to evacuate them off their land. A copy of the same was produced before the investigation team.
III. Response of the administration and police and the aftermath
a) According to the statements of Thana Inspector and Tehsildar, the police and administration immediately reached the village soon after the incident. The Tehsildar also informed that he and the TI had transferred the injured immediately to the hospital.
b) Based on the incident the police registered a FIR against the Satnamis. The details are as follows :
Case No: 254/10
Sections: 147, 148, 149, 294, 506B, 323, 307 of IPC.
Informer: Kalicharan Dewangan
Accused: Mangaldas, Bhaddar, Girdhari, Chhohelal, Bilwa, Baggu, Khedu, Gyandas, Mule, Jeevan, Aindu, Manohar and 30-40 others from Balaudi village.
Based on this FIR, 24 Satnami men had been arrested.
c) Another case was registered based on the complaint of the Satnamis. Details of it is provided below.
Case No: 255/10
Sections: 147, 148, 149, 294, 506B, 323 of IPC.
Informer: Mangaldas Satnami
Accused: Rajendra, Bhawani, Bhim, Chowa, Maniram, Janak, Puneet, Surendra, Kalicharan, Panchram, Tulsi, Khedan, Baisakhu, Khilawan, Tilak, Harbansh, Gopal, Manharan, Saadhram, Motu, Paras, Mahasing, Nathu, Manohar Yadav and 25-30 others from Balaudi village.
None had been arrested in this connection.
d) Soon after the incidents the Tehsildar ordered for a complete demarcation of government land possessed illegally. The Tehsildar, Police Officers and Revenue Officials had been camping in the village to finalise the matter. The land under the possession of the Dalits is said to be the Chote Jhad Ke Jungle.
e) After these initial complaints and FIRs there were a few more cases registered. It happened that one of the injured Maniram Kanaujiye died on the way to Raipur. The next after autopsy of the body it was given back to the relatives. The relatives were back to Balaudi and on the way the villagers stopped the vehicles at Palari tehsil headquarter. Then they diverted the vehicle towards the police station and rounded it, demanding the arrests of all the Satnamis men from the village.
f) This mob mostly consisted of OBC men from Balaudi village with the backing of local political leaders. Senior Police personnel arrived and informed that they have already arrested the key accused in this case and are on the lookout for the remaining. By this time the women from the village also arrived, they began to sloganeering and shouting against the police followed by stone pelting and shoe throwing. Additional forces were reinstated. There were more than police personnel including senior officers who restrained from using any force. In the stone pelting few of the police officer got injured, who later registered complaint against the villagers.
g) One of the complainants was the SDO-P K.S. Parihar. The details of cases are as below.
Case No: 256/10
Sections: 341, 147, 148, 149, 186, 332 of IPC.
Informer: K.S. Parihar (SDO-P)
Accused: Kalyani Yadav, Manmolinbai Nishad, Sumati Nishad, Tameshwar Yadav, Kholbahra, Rajendra Kashyap and 200-250 other men and women from Balaudi village.
h) Another complaint was registered by Durga Baghel a policewoman who also got injured during the stone pelting and was also manhandled. The details are as below.
Case No: 257/10
Sections: 341, 147, 148, 149, 186, 332 of IPC.
Informer: Durga Baghel
Accused: Manhora Dewangan, Rukhmani Dewangan, Chedulal Dewangan, wife of Abhiram Chandrakar, Rameshwar Sahu, Khilawan Kanaujiye and 200-250 other men and women from Balaudi village.
i) Vimlesh Dubey was another police personnel on whose complaint another FIR was registered. The details are as given below.
Case No: 258/10
Sections: 341, 147, 148, 149, 186, 332 of IPC.
Informer: Vimlesh Dubey
Accused: Kumaribai Sahu, Krantibai, Lalitabai Sahu, Gendu Sahu, Baisakhu Sahu and 200-250 other men and women from Balaudi village.
j) Another lady police Tulsi Netam got injured also filed an FIR in this connection as per the details given below.
Case No: 259/10
Sections: 341, 147, 148, 149, 186, 332 of IPC.
Informer: Tulsi Netam
Accused: Nandkumar Dewangan, Laxmi Kanaujiye, Bhakhtin Dhimar, Kalyani Yadav, Rameshwar Yadav, Arvind Chandrakar and 300-400 other men and women from Balaudi village.
k) Parsuram Sahu was another policeman who had filed another FIR against the villagers. Details are given below.
Case No: 260/10
Sections: 341, 147, 148, 149, 186, 332 of IPC.
Informer: Parasuram Sahu
Accused: Kalyani Yadav, Bhawani Dewangan, Chedu Dewangan, Rajendra, Kalicharan, Parmanand Sahu, Tilak and 150-200 other men and women from Balaudi village.
l) Based on these cases filed by the police personnel 9 women and 4 men have been arrested. By the time this report is being prepared all of them are out on bail.
IV. Some vital observations
a) During the initial surveillance the investigation team observed that there are clear instances of untouchability, discrimination and humiliation in the village that has continued for long. All the incidences of the past are based on this real situation.
b) The team also observed that both Dalits and non-Dalits are living under fear psyche, particularly after the incident.
c) A caste based hostility and antagonism rove in the entire village. All the members observed this during the visit. Even it was clear from the statement of the Tehsildar, Thana Inspector, other police officials as well as the villagers from both the sides.
d) There is also a sense of 'graded inferiority' among the Dalits which is another factor contributing to the augmentation of the tension to the worst end. The extents of humiliation and dishonour faced by the Dalit in the past is unexplainable. This is what contributed as the backgrounder to the present incident in Balaudi.
e) The Dalits are not invited in any of the village level meetings nor involved and even when they are invited it turns to be a means of humiliation. Hence all the meeting being held as village meeting is without the involvement or participation of Satnamis. How could the village meeting take place under any circumstances in which 40% of the population are either excluded or the community do not participate due to certain reasons?
f) The village meetings are not the official gram sabha. In the gram sabha these issues haven’t been discussed. There was no resolution passed by the gram sabha to justify the position of any common decision. The meeting on 16th August was also a similar one in which the non-Dalits decided on their own to evacuate the so-called occupants by grazing the land. The OBCs took a one sided decision. They didn’t care for informing the revenue officials or police about their decision. Their decision to graze the land was equally illegal as it has no legal grounds.
g) The OBCs in the village informed that they had placed several applications before the Tehsildar with regards to the illegal occupation. The Tehsildar claims that he had made the joint team of Revenue Inspector and Patwaris to enquire the entire illegal occupation matter. Even he had warned the Satnamis not to cultivate on the land. Last year they didn’t cultivate. However this year they went ahead to prepare their fields and sow the seeds. When the villagers again complained then the Tehsildar constituted a four-patwari team to take stock and on the spot enquiry and report immediately. The team reported back and immediate action was taken. All the accused were summoned to appear on 17th August and the incident took place on the same day. The OBCs also blamed the Tehsildar and the TI as responsible for the incident as these officials desisted to take any appropriate action on time.
h) It was also observed that in the past the atrocities against Dalits were mostly not registered or even when the cases were registered it wasn’t dealt properly to reach any logical conclusion. Instead the caste based officers indulged in those cases forced compromises without addressing the fundamental questions effectively.
i) Based on the different version the investigation team is of the opinion that the compromises between the two parties was just a drama by the upper caste leaders under political pressure in nexus with certain sections of police to keep away the culprits from being punished under due course of the law. It is an ineffective tool being used time and again against the Dalits at large.
j) Most of the time, the atrocities against the Dalits haven’t been even recorded under the provisions of SC/ST (PoA) Act. However some of the Dalits in the village maintain that the inclusion of SC/ST (PoA) provisions weakens the case. This opinion comes in the wake of a fact that once sections of this act are included then all focus in on those sections and other major sections of IPC get dropped. In general case the officers and other authorities hail from upper caste background and therefore find ways to dilute the case and thereby let the perpetrators of such grievous and heinous crime go scot-free.
k) All the Dalit occupants of the 65 acre land are either landless or marginal farmers. Even the Tehsildar stated the same. The revenue department has never considered the question of landlessness in this village. The revenue department has not taken the question of non-Dalit possession, which is equally illegal.
l) The possession of Dalit have became the big issue, however the non-Dalit still posses between 150-250 acres of land in different parts of the village. This 65 acre land lies in one stretch. It is only now that the non-Dalit’s illegal possession is being investigated. This also draws another serious aspect that the revenue officials till now weren’t serious about the illegal occupation of the non-Dalits.
m) It is also to be noted that the ones who had lost their lives in the clash haven’t got any compensation from the government. While this was enquired with the Tehsildar, he informed that there was no provision to provide them financial support.
n) The basic tussle was between the Dalits and the revenue department, but the non-Dalits in Balaudi felt that they were beyond the revenue department and therefore they could take up the law of removing the possessors by themselves. Even the legal discourse wasn’t allowed to be complete.
V. Some more concerns
a) The first and the foremost concern is that the entire episode of incidents affirms the continuity of the monster of caste with its dreadful venom. The venom of bitterness and hatred in Chhattisgarh is coming out in various ways.
b) Boths Dalit and non-Dalits in Balaudi live under fear and terror, which is not a healthy indicator of a civilized society. The fear psychology had worked.
c) A longitudinal and latitudinal study of the Dalit situation in Balaudi also proves that the social system of caste is very powerful in India anyone who would try to break the shackles of caste would be defeated without any response. Their dilapidated houses, broken lanes and the state of utter poverty all menifests this. This has been happening all these years with the Satnamis in Balaudi. Now it continues with the crush of their rights over land and productive resources.
d) India’s caste system is perhaps the world’s longest surviving social hierarchy. A defining feature of Hinduism, caste encompasses a complex order of social groups on the basis of ritual purity. This question of pure and impure, sane and insane, holy and unholy, sanctified and unsanctified, sacred and sacrilege are decided on the basis of the caste, land rights and power. In Balaudi the Satnamis are haunted by this caste rule. How could the insane Dalits take part in sacred ritual? How could the Dalit be allowed to politically rule the non-Dalits? How could the Dalits hold land may it be their own or the one belonging to the government?
e) The drama of compromise is an eye washer, since the community was not consulted properly for its consent. Nor justice had been done to the people in terms of bringing the culprits under the grip of law in the 1993 and previous cases. This is an effortless means to protect the culprits under the pretext of upholding peace. But there are no peace talks between the two sections nor there is justice done, how could a compromise take place under these circumstances? The peace has broken forever in the village due to these attitudes.
f) These days all cases connected with SC/ST are only registered at the SC/ST special police stations. These SC/ST special police stations are just defunct almost in the whole of Chhattisgarh. The officers in these stations perhaps wait for some big incident, after which they play a crucial role to neutralise any such cases to the best possible extents. That is why neither any investigation nor any preventive steps have been taken for this long in Balaudi.
g) All these profoundly contribute to establish the fact that caste discrimination and untouchability is vibrant in the village as it was before. Nothing has changed even after 63 years of independence. They still reel under the sinews of the neo-Brahminical slavery.
a) Under the above mentioned circumstances we recommend for an impartial investigation into the whole incident of Balaudi and factors leading to the incident. All forces with the intention of political gain and drawing political mileage should be kept away from the investigation process as it will hamper a fair and just investigation.
b) All culprits involved in the murder case should be brought to all legal action and discourses.
c) Proper direction should be given to the district administration to ensure the freedom, safety and security of Dalits living under utter terror and fear. But this should not be done at the cost of defending the crime against humanity.
d) The state government should also be directed to take precautionary measure of preventing such incidences in future.
e) The state should seriously address the question of caste disparity, untouchability and discrimination in rural areas. No programmes or schemes of the government in any way address this issue in a proper manner. This recommendation comes in the wake of the fact that the theory of economic development will automatically dilute the social differences of caste has proven to be wrong in its very design. Caste is a social question not an economic one.
f) The government should also take essential and effective measures to address the questions of land rights, particularly that of marginalised social groups like Dalits, Adivasis and women. As many of the caste-community clashes are based on land question, land reforms surfaces back into the picture. Land reform, broadly conceptualised as a corrective measure to ensure equitable human-land relationship, implies changes in laws, rules and procedures governing the rights, duties, and liberties of individuals and groups in control as well as utilisation of land.