Attack On Dalits
By Tamaskar Tandon
and Goldy M. George
23 August, 2004
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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".
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
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?
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
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
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?
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
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.
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
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.
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
On behalf of Dalit Study Circle
Goldy M. George
ConvenerDalit Study Circle
MD-45, Veer Savarkar Nagar,
Hirapur Colony,Tatibandh, Raipur, Chhattisgarh, India