Ram Niwas, 49, says only a gun licence can keep him safe now. A few days ago, his two sons, along with seven other Dalits, were injured in a clash with Jats and other caste members in Mirchpur village of Hisar district. The village first hit headlines in 2010 when houses of 18 Dalits were set on fire, killing a man and his physically challenged daughter. Like Ram Niwas, 40 more Dalits applied for arms licences after the recent clash, indicating revival of fears in the community. Hisar Superintendent of Police Rajender Kumar Meena said, “According to records, members of the SC community, including Valmikis, already have 54 gun licences. Others (non-Dalits) do not have as many gun licences.”
Valmikis form a small chunk of the population here. “They have 350 votes, out of the total 6,562 voters in the village,” said village sarpanch Satyawan Singh. “Only Valmikis among the Dalits have arms licences. We are the target of upper caste members. Though there are policemen in each corner of Valmiki colony, they cannot save us every time we go out. If we have licenced arms, it would be easy to save ourselves,” says Ram Niwas, a labourer.
Almost 100 police personnel led by a DSP have been deployed in this small Dalit colony to avoid caste clashes. In 2010, all accused were Jats, but now the police have booked Brahmins, Lohars and Khatis also in connection with the recent clash, which happened after a minor altercation between local boys. CCTV cameras are also being installed in the colony. However, many Dalits think a licensed weapon is essential for their security. Jaswant Chauhan, a Dalit and a government school teacher, says, “In the 2010 violence, the mob did not enter the street in which two Valmikis had licenced guns.”
“Now, I am also thinking of an arms licence,” says another Dalit, Ajmer Singh. However, non-Dalits are worried over the scramble among Dalits for arms licences. Recently, they held a panchayat to demand arms licences for themselves too. “I have already signed 37 fresh requests from Dalits for arms licences,” says Sarpanch Satyawan Singh. Dalits in the village met CM Manohar Lal Khattar on Thursday to demand jobs and their rehabilitation out of the village. “He has assured to fulfill our demands, but did not specify the place for rehabilitation,” says Ashwani Chauhan, who was also part of the delegation which met the CM.