Lawless Hariyana : Jats own free Licence to rape…. kill !!
He sat at the back of the crowded bus, hiding part of his face with an ‘angochcha’, looking away at the passing countryside. But one glance and she knew it was him. She got off the bus, rushed home, told her elders. They made a call, and at the next stop, the police stood waiting to take the young man away.
And thus Baljeet, better known in Dabra as Sittu, one of the dozen-odd jat boys on the run after allegedly raping a 16-year-old dalit girl on September 9 and filming the act to blackmail her not to squeal, was finally arrested on Saturday.
The case has roiled Hisar, the district of Haryana infamous for jat-dalit tensions. But in small mercies, Baljeet’s arrest — the first in the case — took place on information shared by a jat girl.
The college student prefers to be anonymous. Baljeet is her neighbour. So are the other boys still on the run. It is not easy to act against your own community, her mother explains, even if they are goondas.
“But these boys should be punished,” says the girl. “She (the victim) was my junior in school. What happened to her could have happened to me. It could have been any of us.”
In the dalit quarter, not everyone agrees. “They would not have touched a jat girl. Aag lag jaati. They could only do this to a poor girl,” says Ommi, a young woman from the victim’s extended family. According to the FIR, the girl had been forcibly picked up from the road and taken to a secluded spot near a canal, where seven boys took turns to rape her, while five others stood watching.
At the small brick house of the victim, a group of women have huddled around her mother, who sits statue-like, mourning what is a double loss — her daughter’s trauma and her husband’s suicide. She remembers the fateful afternoon when her daughter, a student of 12th grade, had stepped out to meet her granny, only to come back in the evening listless and subdued.
“She didn’t eat for days, complained of fever. Her father finally sat her down and asked her what was wrong. When she finally spoke, he could not handle it. He consumed poison the same evening,” the mother narrates, her voice breaking. The girl’s father, 42-year-old Krishna, was a gardener and worked at the bungalow of a prominent, politically influential jat family.
In the dalit quarter, there is constant refrain of how some of the boys belong to powerful jat families — erstwhile zamindars, modern-day politicians — who are now trying to influence the investigation. “The assistant sub-inspector handling the case is a jat. Intially, he tried to fudge the facts by inserting in the FIR that the girl was friendly with the boys and had gone with them willingly. But we ensured that he could not do that. Now, they are trying to falsely implicate other village boys who are innocent,” says Sanjay Chauhan of the Bahujan Samaj Morcha, a local group. The superintendent of police, B Sateesh Balan, denies this. “We have made another arrest. The young man is yet to be identified,” he says.
But the villagers claim the second boy to be arrested is from the Yadav community. “He is innocent. He was not even in the village when the incident occurred. He was with me in Udaipur, transporting material,” vouches Baljit Kumar, a dalit youth. “By arresting the wrong people, the police are spreading dushmanayi (enmity),” said a Dalit woman. “Already, we are living in fear,” she adds. The fear is not just of a backlash but also of a breakdown of economic ties. Dalits are landless and work in the fields of the jats. If tensions were to rise between the two communities, their livelihoods would be jeopardized.
While the incident shows how caste hierarchies have endured, it also offers a glimpse of the gradual shifts underway. In recent years, the region has seen a resurgence of dalit groups and parties like the BSP.
Oustide the district headquarters, dalits from Bhagana village have been sitting on a strike, demanding access to the village’s common land, blocked by jats. Since last week, they have been joined by dalits from Dabra, who have been taking out candle-light processions in the city, protesting police inaction in the rape case. As TV cameras crowd the village, the young Dalits speak forcefully and articulately. “Earlier, our community would take all the injustices without a murmur,” says Baljit Kumar. “But the educated youth are no longer willing to cow down.”
If education has empowered young dalits, it has also created spaces of empathy among the jats. When it came to choosing between her schoolmate and her caste-cousin, the college girl who tipped off the police says she didn’t have to think twice.
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