Dalit attack: Brahmins look to Joshi for rescue
Hadgin (Allahabad), June 22: SINCE Allahabad is represented by Union HRD Minister Murli Manohar Joshi, it’s but natural that when Brahmins in a village in the district are accused of ganging up with the police to thrash Dalits, they should turn to him for a bail-out. Eight days after the FIR was filed, the accused are still walking free in Hadgin village, and they’re waiting to take their plaint to their man in power.
‘‘Nothing will happen to us until our leader (read Joshi) is in power,’’ said one of the persons named in the FIR. ‘‘We will try and meet Joshi during his visit to Allahabad. We have been falsely implicated in the case and will take the matter to our leader,’’ added Amar Nath Dwivedi, whose brother Ashok, an LIC agent, has been named in the FIR. Joshi was in Allahabad on Friday evening to participate in an official ceremony.
Five Brahmins in Hadgin are accused of colluding with police officials to ‘‘settle scores’’ with more than two dozen Dalits. An FIR under the Scheduled Caste and Tribe (Prevention) Act has been lodged at Ghoorpur police station.
‘‘They openly insult us in the name of their leader, yet no action has been taken against them,’’ Ram Asrey Pasi, a Dalit, said from his straw cot, his half-naked body spotted with the black-blue marks that repeated lathi blows leave. In his own words, this is what happened on June 14: ‘‘At around 7 a.m., excise officials, police and PAC personnel swarmed the village and started raiding houses of Dalits, alleging that illegal country-made liquor is manufactured here.’’ Several houses in the village manufacture illegal liquor, but it’s not something the police discovered on the day of the attack.
‘‘Anybody who objected was beaten black and blue. In all, 22 Dalits were injured. The Brahmins instigated the police and themselves beat us with lathis. Among the victims was an eight-month pregnant Dalit woman who had stepped in to rescue her husband,’’ alleged Ram Pasi. In all, 11 Dalits were arrested on charges of manufacturing illicit liquor and attacking the police.
But the station house in charge of Goorpur, Vivekanand Tiwari dismissed the allegation. ‘‘What has Joshi to do with local politics? We have received no pressure from higher-ups for not arresting persons named in the FIR.
Investigations are on and action will be taken accordingly,’’ he said.
The accused too claim they have been wrongly implicated. ‘‘Excise officials along with police teams raided the houses to unearth illegal liquor manufacturing units, but the Dalits retaliated and snatched the rifles of PAC personnel. How can anyone of us dare to beat anyone in the presence of police?’’ asked Amar Nath Dwivedi.
This is a village where the numbers are in the Dalits’ favour. In a population of nearly 2,200, Dalits number 1,400, backwards 500 and Muslims and upper castes—mainly Brahmins—300. ‘‘How can we lord it over a Dalit population that’s ten times our size,’’ asked Raju Pandey, one of the accused.
The Dalit-Brahmin rivalry in Hadgin has its roots in a series of disputes related to marking of the boundaries of fields in June last year. There were three incidents where Dalits were allegedly beaten up by Brahmins in June last year. In one case, claimed Ram Asrey, Virendra Kumar who went to defecate in a field owned by Surya Mani Pandey was forced to remove his excreta with his own hands by Pandey’s sons. Ram Asrey had objected and since then, he claimed, ‘‘the family treats me as an enemy and the leader of Dalits.’’
Though Minister Joshi could not be contacted, his Personal Assistant Uttam told The Indian Express, ‘‘None of the Brahmins has met the minister, but I did receive a call from one of the victims, who identified himself as Raj Bahadur. He told me that on June 14, something has happened to the Dalits of the village.’’ Uttam said he tried to contact the SSP and District Magistrate of the area, but they weren’t available. On Friday afternoon, Joshi asked for a report of the incident, added Uttam.
The incident is likely to stir up further trouble, since the Dalits have planned a rally in Allahabad on July 8. Others say their bruised souls are ready to convert to any religion which can ensure them security and freedom from upper-caste violence. ‘‘We feel insecure and are ready to embrace any religion if our lower caste is the reason for our torture,’’ said Virendra Kumar.