Dr. Umakant | CounterCurrents
A Preliminary Fact Finding Report on Dalit Family Set Afire At Sunped, Haryana, India
We arrived at Jitendra’s house in Sunped village by 10.30 A.M. on October 25, 2015. In the middle area of the house about 10 male and 6 female members were sitting. Jitendra, discharged from hospital, was lying on a cot. About 10-15 Policemen of Haryana Police were sitting outside the house. A pall of sadness, gloom and helplessness was quite visible. But beneath these signs of despair, a steely desire to keep the struggle on for dignity, self respect and justice was coming forth during discussions over next two hours that we had with them. Hukam Singh, Jitendra’s Uncle narrated the whole story.
“I am punished for being a Chamar”
These were the words that Jitendra, the ill fated father of Vaibhav and Divya, uttered in slow voice to our team members who had assembled near the cot. With tears in our eyes, we stood there in silence and solidarity. On being comforted by Prof. Vimal Thorat and Annie Namala, the women sitting over there started crying as they were not able to control their grief. With two children dead and gone and Rekha, Jitendra’s wife still struggling with life at Safdarjung Hospital in New Delhi, they were somehow trying to put up brave faces against all odds.
In Sunped about 400 houses belongs to Rajputs, the dominant Caste Hindu families. Jatav (Chamar), Dalit sub-caste families live in about 100 houses. Houses are all made of concrete materials, we did not find any mud house in the vicinity. Houses are located in caste specified areas where caste rules are clearly drawn out.
The Genesis: The Embedded Caste Rivalries
On October 5, 2014, Jitendra house was attacked and glass panes were broken and seven other houses were burnt partially and their properties looted too. Several Dalit families fled from village fearing escalated violence.
A small shop owned by Jitendra’s cousin became a spot for heated exchange of verbal fight over a mobile phone which later on turned into a full- fledged caste attack by the Rajput youths who had a history of intimidating Jitendra and other Dalits in the area. Eve-teasing and harassment of Dalit women and girls by Rajput youth was a regular display of vulgarism in this village during those days.
Three Rajput youth reportedly got killed during same time. Cause of their death was still shrouded in mystery, but 11 Dalits were arrested on the basis of First Information Report (FIR) filed by the Rajputs of the village. This list of 11 Dalit alleged killers include retired and serving government employees, Sarpanch of Sunped village, who was not even present in the village when these incidents happened, two women and others whose details are given below.
Lajja Devi and Santosh Devi have since been released on bail, but other 9 alleged accused are still in jail. It is worth noting in this connection that ever since Jagmal Singh got elected as Panchayat President, reserved for Dalits under rotation, Sunped village saw major change in local caste politics dynamics and in this process Balwant Singh and other Rajputs were always looking for an opportunity to teach Dalits a lesson of subjugation in the most violent manner.
For brilliant work done by Jagmal Singh as Panchayat President, Sunped Village Panchayat was awarded ‘Nirmal Gram Puraskar’ for the year 2010-11 by the then President of India, Mrs. Pratibha Patil. This too became a source of regular caste rivalries in the village as the enraged Caste Hindus could never reconcile to the changing power dynamics in their village. Prima facie all the above mentioned accused persons seem to have become victim of caste based witch hunting.
In the initial days of the caste conflict Police used to threaten Dalits to leave the village which subsequently led many Dalit families to relocate to other places. Attack on their houses took place on October 5, 2014 during afternoon and continued till late evening. But Police did not file any case despite several complaints lodged by Dalits of Sunped village to National Commission for Scheduled Caste (NCSC), Police Commissioner of Faridabad District and several other Statutory Bodies.
It was due to intervention by Mr. Ishwar Singh, Member, National Commission for Scheduled Caste (NCSC) that police protection was provided at Jitendra’s house.
Regular cases of caste conflict continued
Small scale regular cases of caste conflict continued in the area and Jitendra was particularly targeted. He was always threatened by Rajput youths that they would finish off his entire family.
It was only few days ago from the date of carnage that Jitendra and his family had come back to live in the village. In the early hours of October 20, 2015 a group of Rajput youths poured petrol through the open widow of the house and set it afire. In this carnage Jitendra’s two children Vaibhav and Divya were burnt alive, his wife Rekha got severely burnt and even Jitendra himself got burn injury on his both hands.
This ghastly incident happened in the absence of seven Police personnel who should have been present at Jitendra’s house. 4 of them were missing from the village, and out of the rest three one was sleeping in the house barely 50 meters away from Jitendra’s house and perhaps other two Police personnel were watching a religious function nearby. The English translation of the First Information Report (FIR), (a copy of which was made available to the author), filed by Jitendra on October 20, 2015 reads like this as mentioned below.
First Information Report (Under Section 154 of the Criminal Procedure Code) District: Faridabad; Police Station: Ballabhgarh Sadar; FIR No.: 325; Year 2015; Date: 20-10-2015; Time: 09.00 hrs.
Acts applied in the case: Indian Penal Code (IPC) 1860- Sections: 147/149/452/436/302/307. Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989- Section: 3.
Occurrence of Offence: Day- Tuesday; Time- 02.30 hrs; Date: 20.10.2015.
Place of Occurrence: Direction and Distance from Police Station- South/7.0 K.M.
Type of Information: Hand Written
Complainant/Informant: Jitendra, S/O, Dalchand; Address- Village Sunped, Police Station Sadar Ballabhgarh, District Faridabad.
Details of Known/Suspect/Unknown accused with full particulars: 11.
FIR Contents: To, Mr. SHO, Police Station Sadar Ballabhgarh.
I Jitendra, S/o, Dalchand, by caste Jatav(Chamar), reside in village Sunped, Police Station Sadar Ballabhgarh, District Faridabad. I run an R.M.P. Doctor Clinic. We were having a conflict with Balwant, S/o, Chhidda and others in the village. On 19/20.10.2015 a religious function (Jagran) was organised in our village and some of my family members were attending it. I was sleeping with my family and children in the house. Some members of Balwant’s family after jumping in the outside boundary wall entered the house, poured petrol through the opened window and below the main entry door of the house. Petrol fell on me as well and I woke up. It was around 2/2.30 A.M. and after opening the door of the house I saw Balwant, S/o Chhidda, Jagat, S/o, Balwant, Aidal, S/o, Rambhu, and Naunihal, S/o, Pohpi. They entered my house by that time. I also saw Jogindra, Suraj- S/o, Khillu, Akash and Aman- S/o, Balu alias Bharatpal, Sanjay- S/o, Pohpi, Dharam Singh- S/o, Balwant, and Deshraj- S/o, Rambhu. By that time inside the house Aidal- S/o, Rambhu and Naunihal- S/o, Pohpi by lighting up the match stick lit the house on fire and all of them started fleeing from there. They were shouting and saying that we have to kill these Chamar Dheds. My wife Rekha and two children got very badly burnt up. I started shouting that my house has been burnt up and after listening to my voice for help neighbours came and took us out. We were taken to General Hospital Ballabhgarh by a private vehicle for treatment. Doctor gave the initial treatment and referred us to Safdarjung Hospital, New Delhi. My children Vaibhav and Divya died on the way before we reached Safdarjung Hospital. Me and my wife are getting treatment at the same hospital in New Delhi. Since you have come the hospital, I hereby has submitted a written complaint to you and request you to act strictly against all the accused. Sincerely- Jitendra, S/o, Dalchand, resident of Sunped village.
A Rapid Action Force Personnel of Haryana Police at Jitendra’s burnt front portion of house on October 25, 2015. (Photo Courtesy: NCDHR).
Post Immolation: Protest Forced the Government for CBI Probe
On October 24, 2015 Jitendra was discharged from hospital and is now recuperating at his house with both hands still in a highly bruised form. His wife Rekha is still in Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Safdarjung Hospital. Our team was informed by the family members that they are not allowed by Police to meet Rekha at the hospital.
Protest led by Jitendra and hundreds of Dalits from the village forced the Government of Haryana to suspend the Police personnel who were missing from Jitendra’s house. The Chief Minister announced compensation of one million rupees to Jitendra’s family over killing of Vaibhav and Divya. Under immense pressure from Dalits in the village and surrounding areas and also due to tremendous pressure mounted by several Political Parties in the country, the Haryana Government decided to hand over the case of violence, immolation and atrocity on Dalits in Sunped village to Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on October 22, 2015. It was then only the dead bodies of Jitendra’s children were cremated.
Chief Minister of Haryana Mr. Manohar Lal Khattar visited the bereaved family at Sunped village on October 23, 2015. Our Fact Finding team was informed by the family members that he spent only 5 minutes at Jitendra’s house and more than 30 minutes with other non-Dalits in the village. They argued that this shows the Chief Minister’s real attitude and they do not expect any justice from him and his Government.
Prof. Vimal Thorat comforting Jitendra’s mother with other Dalit Women relatives of Jitendra
on October 25, 2015 (Photo Courtesy: NCDHR).
Issues of Concern
The biggest issue of concern in Sunped village is complete absence of sensitivity among non-Dalit caste people about helping the needy and weaker sections of society. Assertion of any and infact every rightful claim by Dalits in the village social economic and political domain is met with hatred, violence, discrimination and exclusion. This kind of situation is certainly not found only in Sunped village but is prevalent all over India.
The local Administration, Police and even the higher echelons of Government Officials do not seem to be properly sensitised about prompt and efficient handling of caste conflict situation. This was clearly evident in this case as several repeated request for help by Jitendra, his wife Rekha and other Dalits in the village, the Police Commissioner literally did not do anything. As mentioned earlier it was on NCSC Member’s intervention that Police protection was provided at Jitendra’s house. And the manner in which this false protection was provided finally allowed the marauders to not only burn the house and also succeeded in killing Jitendra’s children. It is high time to overhaul the existing criminal justice system administration in the country as in other places too the stories of negligence and mishandling by Officials and even judiciary are very common.
It has also come to light that Jitendra and his family members have been sending petitions for help to several other bodies, but only NCSC intervened in a limited manner. Toothless and vested only with powers like sending summons to Administrative and Police Officials bodies like NCSC have not proved very effective in dealing with monstrous attack on Dalit’s life and property.
In a situation like this and even in other cases of gross human rights violations of Dalits Why other Statutory bodies like National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), National Commission for Women (NCW), National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) do not intervene, neither by suo motu intervention, nor by any other effective means?
How, when and by what means Jitendra and other Dalits in Sunped village would get justice or would they be denied justice as has been the experience so far in several and almost/perhaps all cases of atrocity, untouchability faced by Dalits in the country????
When would time come to say “enough is enough”?
Constitution, Legislations, Due Diligence and Accountability could certainly play an important role in ensuring liberty, equality and fraternity. But these do not operate in isolation. They operate in a socio-religious-cultural-economic- political domain which are inherently discriminatory, exclusionary and violent by nature. If corrective measures are not initiated in right earnest now, the lofty ideals would never become real and many more Sunped would keep happening as before.
Dr. Umakant is an Independent Scholar and Human Rights Advocate based in New Delhi
(The author wishes to thank the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR) Team for extending an offer to join the fact finding mission for Sunped violence case. The current report is a preliminary fact finding report, and not an official report by NCDHR, based on interaction with Dalits at Jitendra’s house, at surrounding areas and also junior level Police personnel in the village, and at Ballabhgarh Sadar Police Station. NCDHR may come out with a larger and more proper fact finding report in due course of time).