By: Mahim Pratap Singh
It is difficult to tell whether the 32-year-old is angry or just sad. “They broke both my arms and then raped me,” she says with a straight face, sitting on a bed in Ajmer’s Jawaharlal Nehru Hospital.
She was one of the victims of Thursday’s violence at Dangawaas village, 50 km from Ajmer. The clash, between Meghwals, a Dalit caste, and the dominant Jat community, over a 40-year-old land dispute left four dead and over a dozen injured. At least one of them is critical. The police made their first arrest, Ramdev, one of the 13 persons named in the FIR, after almost 72 hours.
Nagaur Superintendent of Police Raghavendra Suhasa denied a caste angle to the violence. “No doubt it was a brutal attack and those who did it will not be spared. But it was not a caste-related conflict. The Meghwals figure in FIRs filed by both sides.”
The first bullet, Suhasa added, was fired by the Meghwal community.
Ramkaran Kamedia, former sarpanch of Dangawaas and the father-in-law of the current sarpanch, also says this. Adding that everything was “calm and under control”, Kamedia says, “This incident was an aberration and if the Meghwals had not fired first and killed Rampal Gosain, things would not have spun out of control like they did.”
Kamedia and the other Jats, as well as police and officials, also doubt the version of the woman who has claimed rape. Married into another village nearby, the woman happened to be visiting her parents on Thursday.
“How could she have been raped amid all that violence?” says Kamedia. “Hundreds of people were there… fighting. She is lying.”
The alleged rape victim’s sister-in-law lies writhing in pain four beds away from her in the women’s ward of JLN Hospital. “They came armed with batons and hit us indiscriminately, leaving my father-in-law and his elder brother dead. They ripped my clothes and robbed me of my jewellery,” she says, showing injury marks on her left arm and waist.
Downstairs, Ganpat Ram (34), who sustained serious internal head injuries, is battling for his life. He has a 50 per cent chance of surviving, doctors say.
There are just five police personnel camping in a tent keeping a watch. In fact, more police are deployed at the government guest-house in nearby Merta town, where P L Poonia, the chairperson of the Scheduled Castes Commission, is holding a public meeting over the incident.
“It is unfortunate that police action took so long. The matter had been brought to the notice of the police and administration repeatedly.
Had they acted, the issue would not have snowballed,” Poonia told The Indian Express. “It was a personal dispute over land that escalated into a caste-related conflict. People told me they have no faith in the ongoing investigation, so we will recommend a probe by an independent agency.”