M M Joshi's wife involved in Dalit brutality?
On June 14, police and government officials brutalised an entire village of Dalits - and Tarla Joshi, wife of Human Resources Development Minister Murli Manohar Joshi, allegedly bailed out the culprits, reports Shamya Dasgupta
Allahabad, June 20
Following close at the heels of the attacks by Thakurs and Brahmins on lower-caste citizens of Uttar Pradesh is the report of another attack. This time, the scene has shifted to Hathgin, a village 20 km from Allahabad, where, on June 14, the police brutalised and savaged the entire Dalit population. What enhances the drama - kindly put - of an otherwise regulation event in the area is the alleged involvement of Union Human Resources Development (HRD) Minister Murli Manohar Joshi and his wife, Tarla Joshi, in the brutality.
Before this incident, there were reports of attacks in Jairana village near Aligarh (June 13), where Thakurs killed five Dalits, and in Husainganj near Allahabad (June 11) where Thakurs killed five more people. There was also the incident in Kanpur on June 14 where a Dalit was burnt alive by a group of five Thakurs.
Reports from sources in Allahabad confirm that on the fateful day, a police party aided by the 50-strong Brahmin population attacked the Dalits of Hathgin village. Among other instances of brutality and inhuman behaviour, they stripped naked an eight-month-pregnant Dalit woman and paraded her in front of the whole village. A witness says that the police stood by and laughed. Then they made a Dalit youth pick up his own excreta from the ground and smear it on the door of his house. This was followed by the Brahmins beating up almost every Dalit male in the village with the help of the police (the presence of the police made potential witnesses stay away and allow the brutality to continue unhindered).
R N Rakesh, former Congress Member of Parliament (MP) from Allahabad, alleges that all this went on because of the support the Brahmins and the police have from Tarla Joshi. He says, "It is well known that she runs his constituency as he (Murli Manohar Joshi) stays in Delhi most of the time. The police and the Brahmins attacked the Dalits as per her instructions. She asked for the torture to go on in spite of a court verdict recently in favour of the Dalit community."
Hathgin village is home to about 1,700 Dalit families - primarily of the Passi, Jatav, Dhobi, Khatik and Dharkar communities. There are only 12 Brahmin families with a total of 50 men. These men, with the help of the police from the Ghoorpur and Naini, "have spread the reign of terror," says Rakesh.
A Delhi-based Congress politician, Namit Verma, gives details of what spurred the Brahmins to violence. "A Dalit of the village, Ramashray Passi, filed a suit and won redressal through a court verdict in a property case. Following that, half an acre of land was awarded to Passi on June 13. This angered the local Brahmin community, which then invoked Tarla Joshi's intervention," says Rakesh.
"The facts of the matter and the requirements of justice notwithstanding, Tarla Joshi intervened in the matter. She then summoned the Station House Officers (SHO) of the two police stations and asked them to keep the supremacy of the Brahmins intact."
Tehelka.com tried to get in touch with both SHOs but without success. Nor was the HRD minister or his wife available for comment. An officer at the Allahabad Senior Superintendent of Police's office did, however, confirm that the event had taken place. But, he added, "I can't comment on whether the police were involved in it."
Back to the sequence of events: the Brahmins started their torture on June 14, allegedly emboldened by assurance of support from Tarla Joshi. They beat up - "close to death," says Rakesh - every single man in the Dalit community. When they had just started their exercise, 12 trucks of government employees showed up to help them. Also present were a bunch of excise department officials. "Occasionally, these government guys and the police would also join in, but for the most part, it was done by the local Brahmins," says Rakesh.
When they left, Ramashray Passi, whose land had sparked off the issue, was worse off than before and than the others. Doctors treating him say that his situation is "critical and he is in danger" still.
On June 15, the divisional magistrate of Allahabad ordered cases to be filed against five Brahmin men of Hathgin and some excise officials who were present at the site of the brutality. They were charged under sections 147, 148, 149 and 506 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). But soon after, an alleged phone call from Tarla Joshi ensured that all the accused were let off.
The Dalits of Hathgin village have decided to take up the issue and not let go without working out a solution for the future. A team of Dalit leaders led by Rakesh and others will launch protest campaigns in Allahabad and New Delhi.
There are also reports that Dalit villagers from Hathgin and the other oppressed areas are going to converge at Jiriawaali Bagh near Allahabad in protest. On July 8, they are going to "mass convert" from their current Hindu faith to a religion "they feel will offer them greater rights as citizens of India".