Blind and bru­tal

The po­lice crack­down on Dal­its in Ut­tar Pradesh fol­low­ing the April 2 Bharat bandh does not spare even chil­dren.

FrontLine - - SOCIAL ISSUES - BY DIVYA TRIVEDI

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.

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