In Madhya Pradesh, a Dalit family describes an assault that killed a father and husband after he had lodged a police case against upper-caste men
“They wanted to break every bone in his arms and legs. They started counting the broken bones in celebration. As he pleaded for mercy, they dragged him out of the house and kept thrashing him.”
Kavita, 18, is yet to come to terms with the brutal murder on September 30 of her father Neelam Ahirwar, a Dalit, by a group of upper-caste men who wanted to punish him for lodging a complaint under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act against them on September 25.
The teenager, along with her 16-year-old sister Savita, mother Rajbai and grandmother Ramkibai, saw some attackers storming the main door and others scaling the low, side roof from the road and hurrying down the steps into the courtyard. In the next few minutes, the attackers beat her 45-year-old father with sticks and rods in the courtyard.
“When the cloth lines did not allow them to raise the rods high enough, they dragged him out of the house and attacked him further,” says the distraught daughter, who was unhurt; her mother was injured when she tried to stop the attackers. A week later, the mother, in her early 40s, is still at a hospital in Guna, about 20 km away.
Neelam died at the district hospital in Guna a couple of hours after the attack, before his dying declaration could be recorded. A few of the attackers had allegedly beaten him up twice before, on September 16 and on September 25; it was after the second assault that he went to the SC/ST police station where a complaint was lodged against four men for assault, criminal intimidation and hurling caste insults and profanities.
Neelam had been first accused of stealing a tractor and later 15 kg urad dal kept in the Mahukhan Grampanchayat Bhavan; Brahmins led by sarpanch Praveen aka Pappu Sharma, 35, alleged that a Dalit youth, Sonu, had named Neelam as an accomplice.
“He neither stole the tractor nor was involved in the theft of the dal. Both charges are false,” said sub-divisional police officer Rajendra Raghuvanshi, who investigated the matter amid allegations that officials at the SC/ST police station made no attempt to arrest the accused that emboldened them to carry out the savage attack. The sarpanch, who has a criminal record, allegedly called Neelam over to Mahukhan on September 15 when the latter was at his in-laws’ house in a village. Neelam took a bus that dropped him at Pagara village and was allegedly taken to Mahukhan by the sarpanch and one of the accused in the attack.
“The sarpanch told Neelam that the tractor thief had been found. After bringing him to Mahukhan, the sarpanch and others beat him up accusing him of having stolen the dal. His denials led to more blows,” says Neelam’s elder brother Kalyan. Between them, the two brothers owned 25 bighas land. “Why would he steal dal worth less than Rs 500 when he has enough at home?” says the brother, alleging the charges were fabricated by the upper-caste men who want to suppress them. The two brothers own two bikes, a house and at least at least half a dozen heads of cattle.
After being assaulted, Neelam and Sonu were handed over to the Myana police station where a complaint had been registered. Sonu escaped the next day while Neelam was remanded in police custody for two days, after which he was sent to jail. Sonu was later arrested again. Neelam was released on bail on September 25.
Neelam’s eldest child, 22-year-old Brijkumar, who is pursuing a diploma in computer applications in Guna, was not at home the day of the murder, and his younger brother Chhotu had gone to graze cattle. “Sonu named my father because they made him do so. They wanted my father to name other Dalits for the theft so that they could suppress the community further,” says Brijkumar.
After the murder, eight armed policemen were deployed in the village as Neelam’s family said they were scared of being attacked again Of the 14 named accused, 12 have surrendered, including the sarpanch Friday. One of the attackers was a lower-caste villager.
“They often hurl abuse at us. But we never respond thinking they are bade aadmi. They don’t like us attending school or doing well,’’ alleges Karan Ahirwar, Neelam’s nephew. Kalyan says the upper-caste villagers own huge chunks of land and alleges they “want the lower-caste people to work for them for free and not raise their voice”.
The upper-caste villagers deny discrimination but admit the sarpanch has a criminal record and misused his clout. They allege Neelam and his son attacked Deenbandhu Sharma when he was passing by their home on September 25, which led to a counterattack that day. Asked if they had complained about the attack on Deenbandhu, they say they did. ASI Ashok Sharma at Myana Police Station said no case had been registered in connection with any alleged attack on Deenbandhu, who was among the four persons against whom a case was registered in the SC/ST police station that day.
Rajkumar Sharma agrees that sarpanch Pintu, who is his nephew, has a criminal record. “He once attacked me. I lodged a complaint and he went to jail briefly,” says Rajkumar, a former sarpanch, showing wound marks. “He is in the opposite camp,” says Rajkumar, whose own son Jitendra is among those accused of Neelam’s murder. Villagers say Pintu is a BJP member.
Surendra Kumar Sharma, who owned the tractor before it was stolen, says that Neelam had nothing to do with its theft. A police official claims Neelam had started asserting himself after he became a member of the BSP. Neelam’s sons and brothers deny this.
Courtesy : http://indianexpress.com/article/india/violence-against-dalit-he-pleaded-for-mercy-they-dragged-him-out-and-kept-thrashing-him-4882526/