Sitting less than hundred metres from the site where Bhim Army leader Chandrashekhar had enthralled thousands three days ago, Satish Kumar held on to a weather-beaten banner carrying images of B R Ambedkar and Jyotiba Phule. The poster he clutched on to had “is there no justice for Dalits, Adivasis and minorities?” written on it. In one corner of the banner was scribbled “21 May 2012-17 (5 years)”.
Unlike Chandrashekhar and other leaders from Uttar Pradesh — arrived like a storm to raise concerns on atrocities against Dalits in Saharanpur, at Jantar Mantar on Sunday — Kumar and other members of the Bhagana Kand Sangharsh Samiti, a Dalit organisation from Bhagana village in Haryana, claim they have been at Jantar Mantar for the last five years.
“On May 21, 2012, around 137 families had been forced to migrate from Bhagana village in Hisar district. Even today, they are living at the secretariat in Hisar, Jantar Mantar and other villages and cities — wherever they found shelter at the time. This happened after Jats, with the backing of the Khap panchayat, forcefully acquired 280 acres of land that forced us to leave. No FIR was registered against the accused in that case. The situation was such that we could not step out of our houses,” Kumar alleged.
Despite taking out protests at Hisar and approaching various authorities, including the President, concerns raised by Dalits from Bhagana remained unheard, Kumar claimed.
The situation became more tense in 2014 when four minor Dalit girls were allegedly gangraped by an upper caste man in the village, he alleged.
“After the abduction and gangrape of four Dalit minor girls, 95 other families fled. In the months that followed, the condition kept escalating due to the suppression we faced,” he claimed.
Even as the group continues to occupy a corner of Jantar Mantar in the hope that their demands will be met, routine clearing of the area by authorities has allegedly led to a dwindling in their numbers.
“Apart from five-ten of us who are constantly here, the others come and go. For the event of Sunday, a lot of people from Bhagana were here. We participated in the rally,” Kumar said.
The group further maintains that they have been associated with demonstrations on the issues affecting Dalits across the country.
“Wherever there are protests in the country on the atrocities faced by Dalits, we go there if possible. This should not be limited to Saharanpur or Bhagana, this fight is of Dalits from across the country. Their voices need to be heard. We want to be their voice,” he said.