Excluded from Society and Victims of State Repression, Dalits Demonstrate in Delhi for Justice
Neel Kranti Desk
(Translated from Hindi by Gurinder Azad)
While Delhi and its outskirts are facing 45 degrees temperatures and people are retreating into homes, offices and cars with air-conditioning, Dalits from Bhagana village (Haryana) have reached Delhi covering a 200 kilometer journey on foot in this sweltering summer heat, half naked, as a protest against the Khap kind of inhuman firmans of Jats of Bhagana. They have sat on a Dharna at Jantar Mantar in the hope that the government will intervene in the matter and render them justice.
These Dalits of Bhagana are the victims of the notorious Khap panchayat of Bhagana, which has not only snatched the Dalit community's land but also imposed a complete social boycott on them. Not just this, the Jats have built a wall on the street leading to the Dalit basti to prevent the Dalits from even going to the fields to relieve themselves. The Jats also forbade them from taking their cattle to the public pond for drinking water. Added to this, they had started to openly harass Dalit women. All these compelled the Dalits to leave their native village.
In fact, this series of incidents started unfolding when the Dalits revolted against the deception that the Jats had committed against them. In 2009, the government had announced the allotment of 100 acres of government land for people living below the poverty line under the Mahatma Gandhi Maleen Basti Yojna. The then Sarpanch of Bhagana was from the Chamar caste. Before the land could be distributed as plots, the Jats strongly objected to the proposal and did not allow the initiation of the process of land allotment by the Sarpanch.
Some time later, a Jat became the Sarpanch and the issue faded away from public memory. But a few months ago, the Jats told the Dalits that they would get plots very soon and for this, each family has to deposit Rs.1000.
The jubilant Dalits of the village, despite their extremely poor economic condition, submitted the said amount to the Jats.
But a few days later they saw that a large number of trees on the land in question were being cut and chopped and the logs loaded into trucks to be transported to the market. It is to be noted here that there were more than a thousand, several years old trees on that piece of land.
When the Dalits asked about it, they were told that the trees were being cut so that the plots could be distributed. But the Dalits finally realized they were being swindled when they saw a wall started coming up all around the land.
They informed D.D.P.O. who saw the trees being chopped and taken for sale in the market with his own eyes. But despite seeing all these facts he could not do anything.
As mentioned earlier, the wall not only hampered the Dalits' daily routine but also restricted them from going to the fields even to relieve themselves as the wall was raised just in front of the doors of Dalits' houses. With this wall, the Dalits were excluded from the grounds on which they traditionally used to celebrate their festivals, and where they wanted to install a statue of Dr. Ambedkar this year. The Jats grabbed that land too.
The social boycott of the Dalits started at that particular juncture. For a few days, the Dalits endured the situation but later got fed up and thought of approaching the district administration for relief. To live there in those circumstances was very painful, but approaching the administration turned out to be a futile effort. Nothing came out. Therefore all the 126 Dalit families, along with all their belongings and cattle, moved to the Mini Secretariat of Hisar district and started their protest demonstration.
Recalling what happened with them, a Dalit youngster Surender Sandhu tells us "We came here to get justice but soon we realized that this administration is more oppressive than the Jats. When they understood that we will not leave the Mini Secretariat without getting justice then instead of attempting to give us justice they gave us advice to go back to the village. They locked up the toilets and stopped the supply of water as well".
Surender further says, "During this protest, a few Dalit and social organizations expressed their solidarity. Initially, the BSP's State unit helped them and in their leadership we burnt the effigy of the Chief Minister. But this act resulted in making the situation worse as the State Government imposed the charge of sedition on us which is an non-bailable offense and can lead to life imprisonment. After that incident, the BSP has not tried to contact us until now. Maybe their objectives were different. However, lots of 'mediators' approached us in this duration. Thankfully, the central minister Selja came here and met the administration and through her efforts the state withdrew the case of sedition against us, at least".
When asked about the organizations who had supported them in Delhi, he said that they got the support of Mr. Jay Bhagwan Jatav (Dalit Activist), Documentary Filmmaker Nikhil Sablania, Jai Prakash, Ved Pal Tanvar, Bal Kishan Mahar, Vijay Somani, S.L. Dhani, Ramesh Bhangi and Surendra Sagar who helped them in every possible way. But no Dalit NGO has come forward so far to support their demands.
In this regard, Mr. Jai Bhagwan Jatav said, "The work of NGO is to click photographs of Dalits to get funding, therefore, to look at them for support on real issues is meaningless".
All the demonstrators, comprising of both young and older people, sat half-naked at Jantar Mantar in protest against discrimination, from morning till evening, every day since their agitation began in Delhi. However, as it is required under law to vacate Jantar Mantar in the evening, they had to move to Dr. Ambedkar Bhawan every day to spend the night there.
The media has not paid any notice to this very sensitive issue until now. But Mr. Nikhil Sablania is determined to make all efforts to bring the issue into the wider public domain. He has been displaying the videos and pictures of the protest demonstrations and the issues involved on Facebook and through other alternative media. Nikhil has now brought us a new, very shocking and sad news about the plight of the protesting Dalits: "Now, even the administration of Ambedkar Bhawan has thrown up their hands expressing their unwillingness to accommodate the demonstrators fighting against discrimination in the Bhawan whereas it was built during the time of Dr. Ambedkar for the express purpose of supporting Dalit programs and movements. But today it seems to stand against Dalits, Adivasis and Bahujans".
Despite all these problems and the indifference of the Dalit political parties and progressive left organizations, these Dalits from Haryana have refused take a U turn and are determined to fight for justice.
If you want to express your support for these courageous Dalit protesters please join their demonstration on any given day, from morning till seven in the evening. For more details, please contact Sanjay Boudh @ 0980 240 2395 or Surendra Singh Sandhu @ 0868 590 7692.
Main Dalit hoon
On the road from Bhagana
The State questions but doesn't listen
Among the few who listened
Eat, sleep..agitate under the stars
Ignored, threatened, locked out
But still defiant
Please read the original Hindi version of this article at Neel Kranti.
Pictures courtesy: Nikhil Sablania and Gurinder Azad.