March 4, 2018 4:18:16 am
Elderly relatives looked on in happiness and disbelief and youths danced to loud music as Kuiyaram Meghwal rode a mare for his Bindoli procession. Barely a fortnight later, the newlywed Kuiyaram is at the bedside of his uncle in a hospital in Rajasthan’s Sirohi district. Paka Ram Meghwal (48) was attacked allegedly by two Rajput men from their village on February 28. “The patient has fractures in both his legs,” says Narendra Singh, orthopaedic at the district hospital.
“Before my wedding on February 18, people in the village had warned me against riding a mare. Some said ‘aap to Meghwal ho aur ham Thakur, tu ghode pe baithega to hamara man maryada kya rahega (you are a Meghwal and we are Thakurs, if you sit on a mare then what will happen to our pride and honour),” says Kuiyaram, a resident of Andore village in Sirohi. “I look after my uncle in hospital and arrange for his food. My aunt has to look after their three little children,” he adds.
Kuiyaram says that it was Paka Ram who helped organise his wedding and the ritual of Bindoli, in which he encircled the village on a mare along with police protection. “We gave an application to the police, following which they deployed personnel to guard the Bindoli procession on February 17. No man from the Meghwal community had so far ridden a mare at a wedding. We felt we could set an example for the younger generation,” says Gopal Kumar, a relative.
Days later, Paka Ram was attacked while he was returning from his office at the waterworks board in Shivganj. A case was registered under Sections 307 (attempt to murder), 365 (kidnapping), 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt), 341 (punishment for wrongful restraint) of the IPC along with sections of the SC/ST Act at Paladee police station. The police say preliminary investigation suggests that the attack on Paka Ram was a result of a conversation he had with some villagers.
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“The Bindoli procession went ahead peacefully, we provided adequate security. Villagers told me that a few days later, during a conversation in the village, Paka Ram had said that Thakurs couldn’t stop the procession. This must have angered some people,” says Bihari Lal, SHO of Paladee police station. He adds that the accused — Chail Singh alias Kuldip Singh and Bhairu Singh — are from wealthy Rajput families in the village and regarded as Thakurs. “Both the accused are absconding. Police teams are searching for them. They will soon be arrested,” says Lal.
Acquaintances say the attack on Paka Ram is a blow to the confidence of Dalits in the area, who are trying to move away from casteist practices. Kuiyaram, too, has not had it easy. Family members say that he secured a government job at the electricity department and completed his graduation by dint of his hard work. His uncle stood by him during these times. “I was the first to ride a mare in my village. After seeing what happened with my uncle, nobody would dare do it again,” he says.
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