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Jatland Of Haryana: A Rapists’ Republic

By Anand Teltumbde

03 November, 2012

After the Manesar incident that exposed the unlawful labour practices being followed in the sunshine capitalist establishments that characterizes Harayana’s industrialization and also its patron, the state government, Haryana is again in the limelight, this time for its primal feudal traits. There have been 19 gang-rapes of Dalit girls, one more gruesome than the other, during a single month. While the government responses have been lethargic as usual, the notorious khap panchyats of the ruling Jats, with their pervasive influence have in a way justified these rapes by advising that the girls should be married off before they reached the age of puberty to avoid rapes. Important politicians unashamedly endorsed this shocking solution in public and some of them dismissing rapes as basically consensual matters turned sour. These are not one off examples of foolhardiness of some stray individuals; it verily represents an abiding pattern that makes the state a veritable hell for Dalits.

Roguery of the Rich

Haryana, the land of Jats that exemplifies the huge enrichment and empowerment of farming castes in the post-colonial India, has also been a representative of cohabitation of global capitalism and debauched feudalism. After separation from Punjab in 1966, as purely Hindu Jat state Haryana took rapid strides in development. Today with per capita income of Rs 92,327 (2011), it tops the list of the states except for Goa with Rs. 1,32,719. All these riches are obviously not shared by all. They have been disproportionately pocketed by a section of Jats, which with its power and pelf shelters rest of the community under its thralldom. Thanks to the feudal autocratic style of its leaders, it has emerged one of the major centres of manufacturing, business process outsourcing, agriculture and retail sectors. Gurgaon, with its glass and metal clad high rises housing MNC and TNC offices and families of their honchos perhaps best represents the development of Haryana. Even beyond Gurgaon, the general infrastructure in the state surely rivals the best anywhere. However, beyond this facade lies the Haryana of antiquity that is ruled by khap panchyats, that kills female fetuses, that executes honour killings, that practices rampant incests and that treats its Dalits as its slaves to be lynched, butchered and raped at will.

Recall, when on 16 October 2002 five Dalits were lynched to death by a large and violent mob on the main road outside the Dulina Police Post, near Jhajjar town in Haryana in front of the police and several senior district officials for being accused of skinning a cow, the killers were glorified as heroes who had avenged the cow “our mother”. Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), leader Parmanand Giri had openly stated that those who had killed the ‘gau-hatyare’ (killers of cow) must be honoured. The VHP President Giriraj Kishore justified killing saying, “the life of a cow is more precious than that of a human being.” Shiv Sena, Bajrang Dal, Sarva-Khap Panchayats openly lent support to the killers and opposed any action against them. Such is the terror of the Jats, who pride by valor (read criminality), that the then District Commissioner of Jajjhar had expressed his helplessness to the PUDR team saying that no administration could function in the area without pacifying the sentiments of organisations like the VHP, and negotiating with the ‘Khap’ Panchayats. On 27 August 2005, 55 to 60 Dalit houses were burnt down by a violent mob of 1500 to 2000 Jats in Gohana with full support of local Police or on April 21, 2010, when two Dalits were killed in Mirchpur and their houses set ablaze or last year 70 Dalit families of Bhagana village in Hisar were ousted with the social boycott by Jats, there was similar arrogant support for the perpetrators of crime. The khap panchayats’ honour killing, its public justification by the Jat spokespersons and politicians; their resolution against the struggling Maruti workers’ union, and several such actions are nothing but the naked roguery of the rich Jats in Haryana.

Haplessness of Dalits

Dalits live in perpetual fear of Jats in Haryana. The sex starved Jats on account of acute shortage of women (there are just 877 women for each 1000, far below the national average of 940 as per census 2011) are known to indulge in incests with impunity. But when the khap panchyats issued its fatwa against the within-clan marriages, they turned to softer targets in Dalit girls. The National Crime Research Bureau (NCRB) reports shows how the rapes on Dalit girls/women have consistently gone up from 21 in 2007 to 56 in 2011. While the national rape on Dalit girl/woman went up by 15.41% over the period, the increase in Haryana was whooping 167 %. In a single month of September 2012, there have been 19 gangrapes on Dalit girls. Among these was a 16-year-old girl, who was gangraped by a dozen upper-caste men in Darba village of Haryana’s Hisar district on 9 September. The rapists had filmed the horrific act and circulated the video. Unable to cope with the situation, her father committed suicide. Another Dalit girl of the same age, who was also gangraped in the Sachcha Kheda village in Jind district, burnt herself to death. A 5-months pregnant Dalit woman was abducted and raped by two youths in Kalyat. Practically, the gangs of bahubalis with patronage of politicians can rape and kill Dalit girls without any fear. Haryana has seen such rape cases in several districts, including Rohtak, Hisar, Jind, Bhiwani, Yamunanagar, Panipat, Sonipat, Ambala, Karnal, Faridabad and Kaithal in the past one month.

Unlike Jats, Dalits are poor and sans protection. They can be easily scared by the upper castes, which exert pressure on the family of a rape victim not to report the matter to the police. If the family still approached police, the latter would dissuade it and would not easily register the case. Only under the public pressure the police seem to register crime against Dalits and arrest the culprits. When the case is registered most victim families are pressurized by the Jats to go in for an out-of-court settlement, and accusing it of destroying the village’s intercaste harmony if it refused to succumb. While the family incurs wrath of powerful Jats in village, the police in process do everything to weaken the case. Further the investigation is done in a motivated manner so as to pass it in weakest form possible to prosecution and judiciary. Provide for prosecution’s incapacity and judiciary’s bias and the aftermath after decades is invariably frustrating to victims. This is the general picture in the country; the case in Haryana can be left to imagination.

Options before Dalits

Traditionally Dalits have relied on the state as a neutral arbiter and hoped it would do them justice. The colonial state created this hope and the post-colonial state, pretending to conduct itself as per the constitution, which Dalits believed to be the code of Ambedkar, reinforced this reliance. Despite persistent disillusionment over the last six decades this trait appears intact, perhaps for the lack of any better alternative. The state has not only not cared for them; it has also been itself a perpetrator of atrocities. In every atrocity that came to limelight the complicit as well as active perpetrator’s role of the state is revealed. Besides, with policy as its weapon of mass destruction the state has consistently acted against poor of which the Dalits have been a preponderant part. In recent years, the security syndrome has come handy for the state to label them as naxalite and persecute. Leave apart being a benefactor, the state is completely exposed in its anti-Dalit role. The anti-people collusion between legislature and executive, even judiciary that held hope for people otherwise has failed to create confidence in Dalits with its biased judgements.

The entire system, with its much trumpeted social justice for Dalits, stands exposed as an intrigue intricately devised to ‘manage’ Dalits as it knew left unmanaged they could easily turn inflammable. The entire representational logic embedded in the reservation system had Macaulayan colonial strategy underneath. Their political representatives, sarkari intellectuals, and the entire middle class created by this logic are meant to ‘manage’ vast Dalit masses. Who will then take care of their interests? Who will do what to a Congress leader who rubs salt over Dalit injuries saying “90% girls go out of their own will”, the state president of the Congress, who dismisses it as a “conspiracy to malign the government”, Haryana’s khaps that prescribes how girls should dress so as not to provoke young men; the Sarva Khap Jat Panchayat, that says the marriage age for girls be lowered to curb rising incidents of rape in the state, and Om Prakash Chautala of INLD who endorses it in a shameless manner?

What should Dalits do? Ambedkar posed this problem way back in 1936 and had come out with a communitarian solution of merging into an existing religious community to overcome the intrinsic weakness of Dalits. He did convert two decades later, but to a religion which did not have any such community in India. The conversion as could be objectively seen made little dent to the condition of Dalits. Ambedkar’s vision of ‘annihilation of castes’ is eclipsed by the upsurge of sub-caste movements of Dalits. His construction of ‘Dalit’ as a quasi class of organic proletarians stands effectively demolished. Ambedkar is reduced to an identitarian icon devoid of any emancipatory content. Dalits reflect the same cultural strands that enslaved them for millennia. If the Jats have khaps, they too have their khaps; if others have their jat panchayats, Dalits have theirs, may be with a changed label. In this state, taking clue from Ambedkar’s diagnosis and vision, the only option that remains for Dalits is not a communitarian unity but a class unity. In Haryana, the Manesar episode shows that the young educated workforce is alienated from khap panchayats who have condemned their struggle against exploitative management. There is sizable progressive force, albeit fragmented, in Haryana, which should build the class unity encompassing Dalits to defeat the vile designs of the rapist regime.

It may sound utopian but it is surely doable. Haryana is the ideal land to make a beginning of this process.

Dr Anand Teltumbde is a writer and civil rights activist with CPDR, Mumbai



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