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Attack On Dalits At Gumka

By Tamaskar Tandon and Goldy M. George

23 August, 2004
Countercurrents.org

On 16th August 2004, the next day of Independence Day, nearly 250 Dalits were attacked by caste Hindus numbering about 800 at the village of Gumka, in the Chattisgarh state of India. More than 150 people including 35-40 women are injuried in this gruesome attack. The police and local administration is taking a lethargic attitude towards the culprits. Here is a fact finding report prepared by Adv. Tamaskar Tandon and Goldy M. George of Dalit Study circle.

On 17th August 2004, front-page news appeared in Nav Bharat with a heading "Ghumka mei Maarpeet Ke Baad Jatiya Tanav ". While reading the details in the news, I found that it was a case of atrocities and violence on none others, but Dalits. From Raipur we tried to get in touch with out Dalit friends across the state and even in Nagpur Maharastra in order to communicate about the incident.

Gumka is at a distance of 6 km from Balod block; Balod is at a distance of 56 km from the district headquarter Durg. The next day morning I along with Adv. Tamaskar Tandon from Durg visited the spot. While the facts unfolded one after another, it was just trembling. Here is a concise of the different dimensions of our findings.

Facts of the Incident:


On the morning of 16th August around 7 am, the whole village of Ghumka encircled the two Satnami bastis holding lathis . Among the besiegers there were young and old, men and women, boys and girls, who were nearly countless according to Dalits. According to Guman, "the population of the non-Satnamis is about 800 in the village and we couldn't distinguish anyone who was not there in the heinous act".

The attackers belonged to different communities viz. Kalar, Teli, Yadav, Thetwar, Kewat, and Muslim. Also there were Gonds, Halbas, Ganda and Mahar who succumbed to the pressure of the majority.

While the mob neared the houses with doors open, the people entered their houses and closed them for safety. Most of the doors and thresholds were smashed off and they entered the houses and dragged people out of the house. The throng of people also demolished one house completely in the basti.

The non-Dalits dispersed into smaller groups of 6 or 7 or 8 so that they could handle each person very appropriately . The mob didn't spare even a single person including women, senile, or even small children. They lashed them blue and black causing severe injuries to them. They were lashed like a flock of sheep.


Women were dragged out while their cloths were either torn or disrobed off. According to Godawari who had survived with severe injuries on thigh and back, "it was an attack all of a sudden. We couldn't even realise that what is happening to us. While I was dragged I saw my mother-in-law and my daughter also being pulled out in the same way. And they beat us. They had torn all our cloths and began molestation with all using abusive language against our caste and women. Our naked body was like a toy for them. They were enjoying it every moment. They kept on calling us 'Chup Saali Chamri' and so on". They did not leave out even old women.


"The woman Sarpanch was one the victims of this deplorable act. Her cloths were torn and she was expose naked before everyone. She then ran here and there to hide her body searching for some resort", informed one of the villager during the investigation meeting.


Even they attacked them on their private areas. Both men and women were not left in this process. Couple of them are in critical condition.

The encirclement was in such a manner that they couldn't run off to save from the attackers. This was the same with women and elderly persons.

Even the cattle were not bereft off the attack. Balchand's bull is almost dead, unable to stand or walk, since two of the back legs were broken during the lashing. "We bought it with great difficulty by paying Rs. 20000/- for a pair. Now if one of the bull can't stand then what are we going to do with just one?" notified Balchand's father.

Most of them complained that they were robbed off valuable belongings like wall clocks, audio cassette players, ornaments, money and so on. During the torture of women, even the small earrings were snatched away.

Since most of them were injured they couldn't go to the nearby Police Station at Balod till someone from the next village in vicinity went and informed the police about the happenings. Police got the information about the whole episode that was executed between 7-9 am in the morning at about 2 pm in the afternoon. Interestingly Balod Police Station is hardly at a distance of 5-6 kms. After the arrival of police only they were taken to the Public Health Centre in Balod.

How the Tension Groomed?

According to people's estimation there are around 300 households in the whole of Gumka village, out of which 41 belongs to Satnamis. The total population of the village is estimated to be around 1800, whereas the Satnami population is hardly 250 out of this. However the attack was on 27 families since 14 of the Satnami families had yielded to the pressure of the caste masters.


Tension between Dalits and non-Dalits has a longish history of conspiring against the Dalits under the aegis of caste oppression and its strings and flaws. In recent years the aggression against the Dalits began with the Panchayat election of 2000, when a Dalit woman was elected as the Sarpanch . This was against the customary law of caste and therefore not acceptable to others in the villages that a Dalit, that too a Dalit woman to be their Sarpanch. How could a woman from the malign caste become a leader of those communities who have a higher social stature?


The same year there was another tension on Ghasidas Jayanti when the Satnamis demanded that on the conclusion day of the celebration, i.e. on 18th December the whole village should consider it as a social holiday. This means that all others should not work on that day in their fields or other work place expressing a social solidarity and unity within the diversity. The argument of the Satnami community was that we have been observing all other rituals and festivals of Hindus and adopted social holiday on all these days. But the non-Satnamis said that we have no such plans to observe a social holiday for Ghasidas Jayanti. The pretext was that this year there is famine and hence if we don't work we will be out of resources for our family. Satnamis were of the opinion that famine is a common problem for all and it was more severe for them since they had lesser land and resources. The Satnamis tried to make the non-Dalits understand even when there is famine they have been joining the Hindus in their festivals and celebrations. But the Hindus didn't agree to that. How could the upper caste approve the God of a lower caste community? Isn't it against the rule of caste and social obligations?


Tension still existed and the police intervened and took action against 7-8 persons each from both the Satnamis and non-Satnamis.


This was soon followed by an imposition of social boycott on all the 41 Satnami households in Gumka. Later 14 households were freed from the sanctions, when they agreed to succumb to the pressure of their caste lords. The implication of this was severe to unpredictable magnitude. There was one RMP in this village, who used to provide emergency first aid to the villagers was prevented from treating the Satnamis. Groceries from the shops were abandoned. Walking through the streets of Kalars, Telis and others were restricted. Dalit women were eve-teased using derogatory and undignified language like 'Chamri' every now and then. It was the same with the Dalit men in the village. A fine of Rs. 551/- was imposed if anyone dares to cooperate, help, assist or oblige to the Satnamis. If the person continues then he/she would also be excommunicated from the community as per the new social set-up.


With this the Satnamis in the village also boycotted any participation and cooperation during the Hindu festivals and they strictly stuck to it. From thereon there was a clear demarcation between the Satnamis and Hindus in Gumka.


In between during the summers, when one Dalit woman requested for water from the hand pump of the other communities, she was not only denied to fetch water but also called like "Are Chamri Tu Chuyegi To Paani Bhi Ashudh Ho Jayega" . This became another problem in the village with the upper caste virtually practising untouchability in its crude form.

Apart from this the cattle of the Dalits were not allowed to graze with the cattle of others in the village. The cattle were driven away if they mingle with the cattle of the non-Dalits in the village. Even the penalty of Rs. 551/- was applicable to the boy rearing the cattle too. Hence even he didn't dare to combine the cattle of the Satnami community along with that of the others. So untouchability and discrimination continued in full swing.

The government appointed health worker also denied to provide health facilities to the Dalits due to the fear that he too will be excommunicated, as he was a local man from Gumka itself very similar to the RMP. Whenever the sick Dalits reach them in need, the response was "Abe Chamar Tereko Dava Dekar Danda Bharna Hai Kya" .

The Satnamis filed a case against the upper caste exposing the caste demeanour in which it was clearly mentioned different forms of caste discrimination, usage of derogatory language like 'Saala Chamar' , and practising untouchability in this village. They lost the case in the Durg court, however the Dalits have appealed in the High Court of Bilaspur. This is awaited for its final hearing.

Since 2000 December, there was continuous presence of police in the village till 2003 November, when the Assembly elections were declared only indicating the fact that there was a growing tension between the two sects.

Recently some space was allotted in favour of a Dalit to run a thela . This was again not tolerable to the non-Dalits, since they didn't want any Dalit to run a shop before them. This irked them and they opposed the move of the Panchayat and didn't allow the shop to run. But the Panchayat members including the Sarpanch retaliated satting that it is none of their business to tell them whom to allot the space and whom not to allot.

On the day of independence it was again the Dalit woman who was to host the flag, which was not really a pleasant sight for the non-Dalits.

The same day Guman, one of the Satnamis, was in severe fever and he went to the government health worker and asked him for some medicines. He denied using abusive language and further when Guman responded, he called others from his community to beat him. There was a tussle when other Dalits also reached to Guman's rescue. Somehow the instant conflict was averted.

That night all the non-Dalits had a meeting and this was where they really conspired and designed the wholesome plot. No one knows about what actually happened in the meeting, what was the matter of discussion till late night? This was the concoction of the action plan, which gave delivery to the odious, indefensible and unpardonable event.

In the Hospital:

According to newspaper reports the number of injured were 27, but when we visited the village and took a count of all those who were injured it was as much as 120 men and 35 women. People begged them not to lash them like cattle. According to Dr. G. D. Baghel of Balod PHC, "on 16th by 2 pm we came across the incident when the local police informed us about it and we were asked to reach the place for treating the people. We found about 45 people who were injured. Some of them were minor and some were badly wounded. The police brought about 28 people by vehicle out of which there were 15 women and 13 men".

On 17th August when we visited the hospital, we found 3 patients sitting on the corridor but Dr. Baghel clearly denied that any patients are admitted in the hospital. On enquiring with the nurse she immediately brought the hospital records to us showing that some patients were still admitted. Instantly the SDM arrived and he also confirmed that all the injured patients are back to their village or they have been referred to the district hospital in Durg. He appeared to be more confused. Interestingly we visited the district hospital and enquired about anyone being brought from Balod PHC, but it was a blank sheet on the hospital records. The SDM also confirmed that the doctors have referred 6 patients for X-ray. Dr. Baghel authenticated that none of them had reported back from Durg.

Godavari said that, "no doctor had yet attended us properly. All we have been given is just one injection and couple of tablets. We don't know what they are giving us. We haven't eaten anything since yesterday morning onwards. Even there is no one to cook for us and bring in the village since all the women are badly injured in some way or other. We are not sure if we are admitted as patients or not". They also showed us their injuries on legs, thighs and back. She is one among the women who were manhandled during the attack.

When we went to the village people revealed about the treatment process. Police didn't consider many as injured and therefore they left them in the village itself. Some of them remained unattended since they were unable to move out of their houses. Many women remained introvert since they felt that exposing such wounds would be gross humiliation of their modesty. Women with severe injuries and with exposable body portion went to the doctors. Many of them desisted from going to doctors as they had injuries on chest, breasts, thigh and private areas. Others were taken to the PHC on police vehicles.
"Some of those who were taken to the doctor with serious injuries on head, hands and legs needed X-ray to start proper treatment. The X-ray was more comical than medical. If someone had a broken hand then the X-ray was taken of his chest. If someone had his fingers broken then the X-ray was taken of the head. In a similar manner all the severe injuries were made to be none-injures", revealed Jageshwar. He continues, "what is the use of such treatments? Are we just fools? Or animals? It is just to dupe us".

The SP had instructed the local RMP to treat the injured and continue his injections, painkillers, and bandage. The RMP who belong to Teli (Sahu) community is also one of those who had denied the Dalits of any sort of treatment in fear of Rs. 551/- as penalty. Paradoxically he is treating them after about 4 years and this time he enters each house to check if anyone is in pain or not. However this won't continue for long

Why the Police Continued Silence?

The police have kept sheer silence in this matter to the best possible extent. From the beginning of tension itself there was no concrete action against the culprits in this case. Looking at the elongated background of discrimination police could have avoided the vicious attack but that was perhaps not in their encyclopaedia of problems. What all the police had done is only an eye washing in real terms.

Three-year presence of a police guard in Gumka village proves that there was a caste tension existing and the police took it quite lightly. This leads to the logical conclusion that they had pushed the Dalits into a conflict like situation.

"No police had come to our rescue. Even the police had stationed themselves in the upper caste basti" says Ubalchand. This again draws another rationale that the police had arrived to provide protection to the upper caste people not the Dalits. Perhaps there could be an underlying argument that the Dalits could go for revenge, but it is irrational and unscientific by all means to thing about it when most of them are severely injured and living under fear and terror. Dalits are not yet out off the shocking incident.


The process of framing of cases, in the past and the recent case, is absolutely ambiguous. Formerly when the despicable crime was done by the caste Hindus on Dalits, both the parties were made accused in the cases. The question is why? Only to point the finger on Dalits that they also have an equal share in such nefarious act? Maybe Yes! by doing so this could be utmost framed as a criminal charge not as a caste conflict.

Literally the people were unable to file FIR against the culprit, since they were busy with the hospital. The one being filed by the police is not done in the right manner. "Even in the past when we tried to file FIR the police had file it in an averse manner and the case automatically became quite weak and we could easily loose the fight against the real forms of casteism", revealed Jagesjwar. He continues, "the police here had never acted in our favour and only tried to support those who are powerful by all means". Adding to this Guman one of the community elders said, "it is because of the falsified means of filing our case by the police that we had lost the case in the past".

We went to the police station to know the sections under which the case had been filed and also to enquire in detail about the case from the police. Quite interestingly the police had filed the recent case under section 147 , 148 , 149 , 249 , 323 , 427 , 452 , and 506 of Indian Penal Code against 14 persons. The fact that an outrageous act against the most oppressed social strata of India - that too in large number - being restrained to ordinary sections of the IPC is again an attempt to weaken the case lawfully. Tactful omission of section 120-A , 120-B , 307 , 338, 354 , 355 , 356 , 357 , 378 , 503 , 504 , 505 (1) b , c , 505 (2) , 508 , 509 , various articles of the Constitution of India, other sections of CrPC as well as provisions of SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act all speaks clearly the intentional ploy behind the plot.
5.7 Even when we enquired about the course of action being taken by the police we were not able to draw a satisfactory conclusion. Constable Rajendra Singh Thakur informed us that none had been yet arrest in connection with the case. Again he is sure that the police is searching for the offenders.

The Drama of Compromise:

While we were taking information from the injured people in hospital, one lady named Manju Sharma appeared who claimed to be a correspondent of Samachar Lok, a news magazine being published from Raipur. Later we came to know that she holding certain key post with the Congress party in Balod block. She tried to convince us that everything is fine and a compromise has been established between the two parties. She also tried to obstruct people from speaking to us. She was trying to tell them not to speak the truth since that would draw worse consequences. But this indeed revealed us of the piece of information that there was something called compromise established in the village.

At once the SDM arrived and he too confirmed that people had compromised within themselves. The SDM Mr. S.C. Banjare also told us that this was done in the presence of the DIG .

The local police provided a similar picture that the tension is over. Rajendra Singh Thakur rhetorically illustrated that a peace compromise had been created and that we are told to maintain peace and order. That is why we didn't arrest anyone.

In the village we tried to get an impression about the peace compromise and found that it was done under tremendous pressure on Dalits. Guman and Rajesh said, "most of the community leaders or elders were injured. Hence they were either taken to the hospital. Others who were not injured went to know the howabout of those who were injured. A few elders who are the most aged among us were left in the village. The Sarpanch was pressurised by the police to accept the compromise and the police brought the aged ones in the village. She couldn't resist the pressure of the police and administration, particularly when higher officials like DGP, SP, etc. were present. She also realised that her modesty was insulted and she was made a showpiece before the other men. So some fear that if she doesn't give way to the compromise then her modesty will be again challenged. So this was the circumstance under which the compromise was forced and gulal was exchanged between the two parties as a symbol of compromise".

Jivrakhan took the strings from Rajesh and said, "they had announced in front of the police that the compromise will be effective only after we get those five chaps whom we missed to handle, i.e. Guman, Jageshwar, Rajesh, Amman and Chandra Kumar. How could you expect us to accept the compromise of such nature even if we wish to accept? Are we just a herd of cattle for their lashes? We don't recognise this as a compromise in any case. Moreover it was done all without the presence of the community leaders and by pressurising a few present in the village".

Arising Concerns:

The first and the foremost concern out of this whole incident is that the monster of caste is back with its dreadful venom. Though its venom of bitterness and hatred was never dead but it was out of action in Chhattisgarh. This time it has convinced its dreadful resurgence.

People of Gumka are living in terror. The fear psychology designed by the upper caste had properly worked in this case of proving that anyone who would try to break the shackles of caste will be defeated without any response. In this the social system is crucially assimilated into the political, administrative and psychological frameworks.

India's caste system is perhaps the world's longest surviving social hierarchy. A defining feature of Hinduism, caste encompasses a complex ordering 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 to which one is born. Here the Satnamis are the impure, insane, unholy, unsanctified and sacrilege as per the caste rule. How could the caste Hindus allow such things to happen that easily? How could they be allowed to rule the non-Dalits in a political way? As per their caste ladder they required to retaliate and that is what they did.

Another ploy to make caste hierarchy acceptable to all was the strategy of introducing an extensive system of 'graded inferiority', providing everyone with an inferior grade immediately beneath them. How could the Gods and Goddesses of the Dalits be worships by the non-Dalits? Is it not against their caste rule?

People have got less faith in the police and administration, since caste had gone deep into the blood and nerves of it. Yet people are unable to speak about it, due to horror looming on their head. The present status of accepting whatever is done to them is taken as a part of their fate as it was in the past. How could the Dalits recognise such a brutish system of administration based on caste?

The fact that police is acting in a disreputable casteious manner is clear from the fact that they haven't yet arrested any of the culprits in this case. Even the SDM's view that everything is all right state that everything done to the Dalits is nothing wrong. Where is justice to Dalits in such a system of unequal human relationship?

The controversial statements by doctor and SDM vis-à-vis that of the hospital staff proves that how little are they concerned the Dalit communities. Even when there are clear evidences of an attack based on caste conflict, it is justified in all possible ways and means that there are less number of people injured. Perchance the SDM and doctors are also under certain pressure from higher authorities. However this could easily produce falise reports.

After this incident there are news of setting up of magisterial enquiry into the matter. The investigation yet to be fully undertaken is yet to trace its tracks. Undoubtedly in a caste-based social system such investigations will always have its limitations and lacunas. The police had already played its part by weakening the case as of now.

The present concern shown by the RMP is only a timely one due to the pressure of the police and administration. Once the pressure off, the former system will be reinstated and yet again the Dalits will be left out without much of choice.

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. 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?

Amusingly many of the Satnamis are marginal farmers or landless, and resourcesless but not in BPL as per the official records. Ubalchand hardly has got 3 and half acres of land, out of which 1 acre is irrigated and the rest is non-irrigated. Out of the non-irrigated land half is just barren with almost nil production. Yet he is not in the BPL list. This puts an array of questions on the process of the BPL survey particularly among the lower strata of social fabric, which already had victimised them.

Our Demands:

Under the above mentioned circumstances we demand for an impartial investigation into the whole incident of Gumka.

We also insist to instruct the police to take essential steps to reframe the case in a proper manner mentioning all appropriate sections and clauses in this matter so that justice is done to the Dalits and no one again dares to do the same in future.

We demand to immediately arrest all the culprits in this case who had committed the heinous crime not only against Dalits but also against womanhood and motherhood.

All forces with the intention of political gain and drawing political mileage should be kept away from the investigation process. However the Dalit organisations engaged in this process should be involved in this case in view of holding a fair and just investigation.

Proper direction should be given to the state to ensure the safety and security of Dalits living under utter terror and fear.

The state government should also be directed to take precautionary measure of preventing such atrocious incidences on Dalits and Dalit women in particular in future.

The victims should be properly compensated so that they re-start their lives anew with afresh sense of freedom and liberty. In reality no compensation could fill their psychological and cerebral wound that is still grey and fresh, but efforts should be made to ensure their space and dignity.

For the last 4-5 years the Dalits in this village have been struggling for their right to live with dignity. All efforts to cause indignity and insult Dalits through means and deeds should be outlawed completely and legal action should be taken strictly against those who practice such things.

Using of derogatory language should be banned and considered to be a heinous crime by all sections of law.

Conclusion:

We appeal to all progressive and democratic forces to understand the gravity of this issue and support the cause of Dalits in Chhattisgarh. Or otherwise the Brahministic casteism will once again surface in new forms and manifestations with its fangs and teeth.

Creation of a casteless and classless society is de facto the step of just, egalitarian, peaceful, fraternal and harmonious society. A society of equals, neither unequal nor more-equals, beyond the strings of caste, class, gender, race, etc. that often leads to social oppression, political exploitation, economic deprivation, cultural domination, gender discrimination, class isolation, deliberate exclusion, etc. Lets' believe in a society beyond this.

Unless this campaign is strengthened one cannot challenge the social system from its edifice, which de facto is the real challenge to the political, economic and cultural systems.


On behalf of Dalit Study Circle

Goldy M. George
ConvenerDalit Study Circle
MD-45, Veer Savarkar Nagar,
Hirapur Colony,Tatibandh, Raipur, Chhattisgarh, India

Tel: +91-98933-57911

email dalitstudycircle@yahoo.com




 

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