Want Justice With Dignity
By Vidya Bhushan
14 November, 2006
fire of Khairlanji in Bhandara district of Maharastra refuse to recede
and has now entered in Delhi also. At the India Social Forum 2006, Dalit
organizations led by National Conference of Dalit Organisations, NACDOR,
held a strong demonstration at the Jantar Mantar where a large number
of human rights activists, Dalit activists from different parts of the
country expressed deep anguish and wanted immediate punishment for the
tormentors of the heinous crime against humanity.
Chhaya Khobargade, who has
been actively involved in the agitation felt that the congress government
has not taken any action against the guilty. Instead it is taking action
the activists who have been staging protest against the incident. '
If the Maharastra government does not take action against the culprits,
the situation would go out of hand,' she warned.
Speaking on the occasion,
Mr Nitin Chaudhury, Convener, NACDOR, Maharastra asked the R.R.Patil,
deputy chief minister of Maharastra must apologize from the Dalit community
for his irresponsible utterances. Former Union Minister Sanjay Paswan
also expressed his solidarity with the agitating members.
At the Dalit sector meeting
in ISF2006, Mr Ashok Bharati, Convener, National Conference of Dalit
Organisations expressed deep anguish over the attitude of Maharastra
government which he termed was no different than the fascist government
of Gujarat led by Narendra Modi. Bharati warned that Dalits would not
rest silently if there dignity continue to be attacked by the upper
caste goons. He also blamed the organizers of the World Social Forum
with prejudices against the Dalits.
While Protests in Delhi continues
and more so because United Dalit Student Forum in JNU along with other
students organizations are planning massive protests against Mahrastra
government's inaction. In Bhandara people expressed their anger against
the visit of Chief Minister Vilas Rao Deshmukh who offered a job to
the relative of the deceased family. ' We want honour and dignity and
not job, was the categorical answer from the family. It is the tribute
to Ambedkar's campaign for human Rights and dignity that dalits consider
it too small to bargain a massacre of a family with a job. That may
be possible in the Hindu system and not with enlightened Ambekarite
It is beyond any body's belief
how four family members of Buddhist Dalit family were butchered to death
mercilessly by the upper caste hegemonists of Khairlanji village who
wanted to grab the land of this Dalit family. 'The Panchayat had already
taken over about 2 acres of land in the name of common passage for the
village and the upper caste were pressurizing that the family also get
out of remaining 3 acres of land, says Sujata Parimita, a women's rights
activist from Mumbai. How brutal and inhuman could these upper caste
be, is reflected in the nature of the killing. Surekha ( 44 years),
her daughter Priyanka 18 years, sons Rakesh 23 years and Sudhir, 29
years were first pulled out from their hut and stripped naked. According
to Sujata and Chhaya Khobargade, 'these women were stripped naked by
the uppercaste women'. Those women's right activists must understand
who say that 'women do not have caste. Not all women are equal. Upper
caste women can never understand the plight of Dalit women from their
caste prism and would have to shed those prejudices before claiming
to work for women's right movement of all. Surekha's sons were also
stripped and asked to rape their mother and sister when they refused
to follow, they were hacked to death. One of the son named Sudhir was
a physically challenge person. Later, the mother and daughters were
also raped and killed. Their bodies were found next day with brutal
marks of killing on their body, lying naked.
Now, the attempt to wash
the entire thing has already begun. The police says that they are not
getting any eyewitness of the event while the medical report does not
make a rape case. It is shocking beyond doubt, as Sujata Parimita says,
'when the Delhi High Court cold send Santosh Singh to the gallows using
circumstantial evidences, why is police in Bhandara not doing its work
and collecting the circumstantial evidences. Moreover, some of the family
member including Surekha's cousin Siddhartha Gajbhiye have already told
police what he saw on that fateful day. What does the naked body indicate?'
The upper caste feudal police is not interested in resolving the crisis.
Siddhartaha was a political activist and living in another village and
Surekha had contacted him to help her as the upper castes were putting
a lot of pressure on them to relinquish the 3 acres of land that they
possessed. To get rid of the intervention, the villagers alleged that
Surekha had an illicit relationship with Suresh. But even if that was
true, why the hell these upper castes were concern about that ?
Complaints were lodged in
the police and yet no action was taken. Dalits waited for so many days
even no media or the government officials visited them. It took nearly
over a month and half when the patience of the Dalits boiled. And what
one saw in the streets of various parts of Vidarbha was this Dalit frustration
with rule of law. The government did not act but tried to shield its
officials and politicians involved in the case.
It is more shocking that
the high profile Deputy Chief Minister R.R.Patil was busy issuing statements
on two counts. One his party has been going overboard over party president
Sharad Pawar's alleged 'insult' by the Australian players. ' We respect
our elders', was the general cry of the political activists in Maharastra.
'We must make the Australians apologize for they do not know what actually
the culture is?' If the Australian media had known and seen the Bhandara
incident and how Indian media reports then they would have probably
said that 'your culture is to publicly rape a woman and her daughters
in front of her sons and do not ask for justice.' That atrocious upper
caste prejudice is still prevalent in Mahrastra and that there is no
outrage in the country is itself an outrage. This incident is a grim
reminder of how our social system function and whether the Dalits should
now not blow up that super structure of democracy which gives one person
equal voting right to elect our parliament or assemblies yet do not
consider them equal.
R R Patil ordered a CID inquiry
into the Nagpur incident but not what happened at Bhandara's Kharilanji
village. Every body knows how an inquiry proceeds to save the skin of
the political leaders. State CIDs are nothing but government's own mindset
and Patil has already said that the entire incident of fire and rioting
in Nagpur was orchestrated by the Naxal groups. Politicians seldom introspect
therefore to expect that Patil and his cohorts would respond responsibly
on the issue would be miraculous.
But Dalits taking the street
for justice is not new in Maharastra particularly in Nagpur. The state
apparatus has always shielded the corrupt upper caste officials, goons
who exploit Dalits. There is pain and anguish and to say that it is
the work of Naxals is again to relieve oneself from the responsibility.
Maharastra's police is considered to be efficient yet it could not fill
a sense of confidence among the Dalits. The political class did not
find time to visit the place. In fact some of the people have blamed
a BJP MLA's involvement in the entire incident.
In the 50th year of Dhammachakra
parivartan, thousands of people have already embraced Buddhism and standing
tall with their new found enlightenment. The Bhotmanges family of Khairlanji
was also a Buddhist and learnt to live with dignity which was not accepted
by the upper caste Hindus. Their assertion was attacked in the most
fascist manner of any system. One does not find parallel to such cruelty,
may be during the Nazi assault on the Jews at the concentration camps
The government is discussing
things in home ministry about the growing influence of Naxalites in
Chandrapur and other parts of Maharastra. This year during the 50th
year celebration of Ambedkar's conversion, our friend Sunita Narain
of Danish Publications, Delhi was arrested by Chandrapur police for
'clinching' evidence of her 'linkages' with the Naxalites. Sunita has
a book stall, at the festival ground, which include Bhagat Singh's memoirs,
a book written by Babu Ram Bhattarai, Nepal's Maoist leader, some others
like Dr Ambedkar's work on riddles of Hinduism etc. She was released
only on the condition that she would be available for further interrogation.
One would ask the ministers
in Maharastra whether selling literature of revolutionaries any crime
and as reported by Sunita, the police officer was asking her ' Why she
sale Bhagat Singh when India has already become a democracy'. Yes, India
is a democracy of the upper castes where they learn Gandhigiri from
a bollywood film but do not use it in their public life. Even Gandhi
would have wept and cried seeing his 'followers'.
Dalits love literature. It
is beyond doubt that Dalits today read much more than the upper caste
Hindus study. All the revolutionary writings are liked by Dalits. Dr
Baba Saheb Ambedkar has given them strength of conviction and character
and therefore they go crazy to read literature of revolution. Dalits
are going for revolution. Embracing Buddism is itself a revolt against
the dominant caste culture of India. Dalits have saved Indian democracy.
When the upper castes were busy in their work and money, Dalits voted
in the slums and streets. What did they get in return? That their leaders
are also purchased and co-opted by the mainstream. Dalits respect constitution
of India because Dr Ambedkar drafted it. Anything that links Dalits
to Baba Saheb has an emotional value.
We gave a political constitution
which suggested two people are equal but in social life, what Ambedkar
mentioned during those days, that the two people are not equal. Manu
Smriti still rules India.
WE must not forget how the
Dalit women in Nagpur taught Akka Yadav a lesson of his life. Yes, Yadav
was a local goon who would go to any house and ask for the prettiest
girl to entertain him. For long the Dalit women tolerated his activities.
Also, they realized well that the Akka Yadav had wide political connections
and would get release once arrested. After lots of protest Yadav was
arrested but the activist got to wind of the police that he might be
let off to torture them again. And the massive crowd that swelled in
the campus of the local court in Nagpur where Police brought the accused
in the van, the crowed attacked Yadav and his friend and killed them
on the spot. That was social justice that Nagpur women wanted for them.
They were not interested in long arm- twisting tactics of the court
and the police which ultimately made them victims and hence they killed
the notorious gangster.
Very unfortunately the Maharastra
government has not learnt any lesson from the same. It still feels that
delay is the best way as people would forget the incident. It would
be foolish to think in those terms. The anger of the Dalits in the Maharastra
is for her dignity and honour and no government can do away with it.
The golden edifice of Indian democracy would not survive if Dalits do
not get justice in India. They have already tolerated humiliation heaped
upon them related to their integrity, merits, reservation and everything.
It is a wake up call for the government failing which they would only
lose their credibility and masses would follow what they believe in
like what happened to Akka Yadav. Government must not wait and act immediately
to get the victims justice otherwise it will have to heavy price for
which India at the moment is not prepared and cannot afford.
Vidya Bhushan Rawat
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