It began as a property dispute, developed into an argument between two groups, and snowballed into an inter-community issue. Two days after a 22-year-old Gujjar youth was shot dead during clashes that followed an argument between Gujjars and Dalits, several Dalit families left their homes in fear of counter clashes.
Even the heavy presence of police personnel in the village, and a bevy of high ranking officers from the district administration and police attempting to repair ties in the deeply divided village, could not stop the families from leaving.
Both Dalits and Gujjars confirmed that there is no history of ill will in Kanawani, and tensions erupted “spontaneously” on Monday morning.
“Des Raj, an ex-pradhan of the village and Chaman Singh, a Dalit, had a property dispute. As is custom, the village elders were trying to mediate between the two parties. However, the argument became heated, and someone from the Dalit side through a stone at Des Raj, injuring him on the head. This triggered clashes in which Rahul Kasana was shot dead. We cannot believe that all this happened, and the atmosphere has become tense everywhere just because of a disagreement on property,” Ram Kumar, a Dalit from the village, said.
On the same night, Gujjars damaged a school owned by the Dalits, leaving many in the village shaken. “The fight has become so big that they are attacking our homes and institutions. That is why at least 50 Dalit families have left the village. If they can attack our school and our homes, then how will we be safe,” Sambhal Kumar, who has moved to a house in Vasundhara, said.
Others said even those who live in rented accommodations owned by Dalits have moved out for the time being. Meanwhile, Kasana’s family members said they did not want the Dalits to leave. “Why should we attack them and ask them to leave? We this conflict to end,” Ram Lakhan Singh, Kasana’s uncle, said.
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Senior police officers said members of the district administration are constantly trying to restore peace in the village. “We have deployed security forces in the area and there has been no further incident of violence. Even the damage to the school was two kilometres outside the premises. However, senior members of the district administration and police have been talking to some sections that are afraid. Officials are trying to assure them that there will be no more violence. We are reminding them that there is no history of community violence and there is no reason for this enmity,” Preetinder Singh, Senior Superintendent of Police, said.