Blind and brutal
The police crackdown on Dalits in Uttar Pradesh following the April 2 Bharat bandh does not spare even children.
ON March 20, the Supreme Court diluted the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, by placing restrictions on the arrest of and filing of cases against the accused in cases registerd under the Act.
Dalit organisations gave a call for a Bharat bandh (all-india strike) on April 2. Protest meetings were held across the country. Members of Dalit sub-castes rallied at the demonstrations and directed their anger against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the Centre, which has been trying to woo Dalit voters but has failed to address any of their concerns. The administration in many States came down heavily on the protesters. The media, according to observers, magnified the stray incidents of stone-throwing to give the uprising a violent colour. Instances of upper-caste retaliation to the protests were under-reported. In Madhya Pradesh, a BJP worker, Raja Chauhan, was caught on video firing from his gun.
Gopi Parya, a 28-year-old Dalit youth of Shobhapur in Uttar Pradesh, was allegedly shot dead by four Gujjars. His name was reportedly on top of a list of violent protesters allegedly compiled by upper-caste men after the April 2 bandh. In Bhind, Morena and Gwalior districts of Madhya Pradesh upper-caste men killed six Dalits. On April 3, a 5,000strong mob set ablaze the houses of Rajkumari Jatav, Member of the Legislative Assembly representing Hindaun City, and former MLA Bharosilal Jatav, both Dalits, in Rajasthan. Upper-caste violence, misreported as violence by Dalits, was thus used to justify the police action that followed against the community.
In the immediate aftermath of the bandh, hundreds of Dalit youths were arrested across Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh. According to Jan Sahas, an organisation committed to the protection of the human rights of socially excluded communities, in Meerut in western Uttar Pradesh 892 first information reports (FIRS) were registered against men, women and children. Among the arrested, eight were adolescents, said Deepak Gahlot, legal aid worker with Jan Sahas. The adults and adolescents were charged under various Sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), including Section 307 (attempt to murder). Initially, the juveniles were lodged in adult prisons. They were moved to correction homes subsequently, Deepak Gahlot said. All the FIRS, copies of which are available with Frontline, read the same. The Dalits were booked under Sections 147, 148, 149, 307, 436, 336, 332, 353, 354, 427, 436, 120-B of the IPC, Sections 2,3 and 7 of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, 1984, and Section 31(A) of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1934. FIRS were registered randomly against people of the community, some of whom were not even in town on that day, said Deepak. “One of them had gone on a pilgrimage to
A PROTESTER being beaten after members of the Dalit community and other “low caste” groups reportedly resorted to violence during countrywide protests, in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, on April 2.