Fleeing can save some, but not democracy; Useless Panchayat Raj: Caste virus 002G2008

19Jun08

Dholavira, an Indus Valley Civilization site on the island of Khadir in eastern Kutch, is in the news for the wrong reasons. Following an armed attack by a 150-man strong upper caste mob last Friday, some 35 indigenous Dalit families from this village are currently camping in Bhujodi village, some 250 kms from here. As many as 106 Dalits migrated en-masse on the first evening of the attack, with the injured, mostly women, still undergoing treatment at the district hospital.

Achar Sumar Sanjot, whose family was first attacked by the villagers said: “Our second camp is in Bhuj as 10 of our women and seven men are undergoing treatment at the civil hospital. Some 100 to 150 people from our community are here to look after the injured.” They said the police action was a bit belated, but they are nevertheless satisfied with it. According to C D Parmar, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Eastern Kutch, 33 of the 35 accused have been arrested and 24 of them sent to the Morbi Jail. After the completion of the initial two days remand of the main accused Velubha Sodha, former chairman of the district central co-operative bank and his son Jillub, the incumbent sarpanch of the village, the police have now asked for a 10-day remand. But Sanjot and the other Dalits are still not ready to return to their village.

“It is true that the police have arrested all the accused named by us. At our meeting with the district magistrate on Tuesday, we were also assured full police protection at our village. But, we still do not want to go back,” the villagers said in unison. “Our women were attacked and robbed of ornaments when they were alone at home. We enjoyed respect in the nearby Pachham area and now we cannot show our face to them. The honour of our women is greater than anything in our life. We can even lay down our life for it,” said Sanjot.

He said Velubha had usurped the tannery loans sanctioned to 51 Dalit tanners in the 1990s by the district industry centre. He said their loan amounts of Rs 2,500 each was transferred to his co-operative bank to facilitate the payment. For, their village was some 250 kms away from Bhuj where the bank and the industry centre had their offices. He said initially Velubha offered them half the loan amount (Rs 1,200), which they refused. Later, Velubha told them that he had deposited the entire loan amount back. It was only a few years later when they started getting the repayment notice. When they met Velubha, they learnt of the misappropriation of the funds, he said.

Sanjot added that later with the intervention of the sarpanch of the nearby Janan village, Velubha agreed to pay back the loan. But he defaulted again. Finally, the villagers lodged a complaint with the police, which resulted in the attack on the village, he said. “He (Velubha) came to the village and inquired about me. When they did not find me there, they attacked the women of the family and the other women who intervened to help us,” Sanjot said. Dalit leader Chhagan Teja Maraj said that Sodha had borrowed Rs 20,000 from him and when he complained to the police their family was harassed. “Velubha is a powerful man who had hobnobbed with the late BJP leader Pramod Mahajan, who had adopted the village for quake-rehabilitatio n. He even attended the marriage of Mahajan’s son in Mumbai. No action was taken against him even though I had filed a police complaint under the Atrocities Act on May 8,” Maraj said.

He said as of now, they have not received any help from the government, but minister from Kutch Vasan Gopal Ahir has promised them with provisions during his visit to the hospital. Additional District Collector H S Mehta said there was a move to provide financial help from a special scheme of the social welfare department once the formal charge sheet is filed. There is, however, no provision to provide shelter.

 

Source: Indian Express



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