The National Commission for Scheduled Castes will Tuesday send a team to Rajasthan’s Jalore to look into the death of a nine-year-old Dalit boy, who was allegedly assaulted by his teacher for drinking water from a pot meant for upper-caste people.
This comes amid widespread anger over the incident and criticism of the state’s Congress government by political parties, including the BSP and the BJP.
Class 3 student Indra Kumar, studying in Jalore’s Saraswati Vidya Mandir, was beaten up by the upper-caste teacher, Chail Singh, on July 20. Singh has been arrested by Rajasthan police and booked for murder and under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
Kumar was admitted to hospitals in Jalore, Bhinmal and Udaipur before he was referred to one in Ahmedabad, where he died Saturday.
BSP chief Mayawati Sunday called for President’s Rule in the state. “However much one condemns such a heart-breaking incident, it will not be enough. Such incidents of caste discrimination are common in Rajasthan and occur daily. This makes it clear that the Congress government there (in Rajasthan) has completely failed to protect the lives and dignity of Dalits, tribals and other backward communities (in the state). Therefore, the government should be dissolved and in place there should be President’s Rule,” she tweeted.
In a tweet on Saturday, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot had assured justice to the victim’s family at the earliest. “The family members of the deceased will be given a relief amount of Rs 5 lakh from the Chief Minister’s relief fund,” he said.
On Sunday, SC commission Chairman Vijay Sampla told The Indian Express: “We will send a notice to the Chief Secretary and DGP Rajasthan asking them to furnish a full report on the incident. We are also sending a team to the spot on Tuesday to investigate the matter. The Commission was in any case holding a state review meeting in Jaipur on August 24-25, and we will raise this issue at the meeting with the state government officials.”
The team will be led by commission member Subhash Pardhi and will submit a report after its return.
“Apart from the incident, we are alarmed at the news that there were separate pots being kept for drinking water for the upper caste and lower caste persons in this private school. This is wholly unacceptable and needs to be addressed,” said Sampla.
Gujarat Congress MLA and convener of the Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch, Jignesh Mevnani, tweeted that the news was horrifying. “What makes one believe that they are superior by birth and others inferior to them,” he asked.
National Crime Records Bureau data, that cover 19 major cities, show that 961 crimes against SCs, including 30 murders, were registered in 2017. In 2019, atrocities against SCs rose to 1,398. In 2020, there were 1,346 such crimes, including 40 murders.
“Such incidents should simply not take place. The fact that they still occur is due to the issue of discrimination being ignored in the past. Once there are immediate arrests and exemplary and strict punishment imposed, that will become a deterrent to such incidents. Such incidents are increasing across the country, and it is clear that if the implementation of the law was more robust, then they would be curbed,” said Congress MP P L Punia, who is a Dalit leader.
BJP’s spokesperson and Dalit leader Guru Prakash Paswan said in a tweet: “Very tragic news coming from Jalore, Rajasthan where a young Dalit boy was brutally killed after incessant beating by the teacher Chail Singh. We request the CM of Rajasthan if he is free from defending his high command in New Delhi to get this man arrested and set an example.’’
According to Prof Badri Narayan, Director of the GB Pant Social Science Institute, who has been studying Dalit politics for decades, such as these take place more in areas of less development. “While Indian society is gradually moving towards an equal one, there are certain ‘strain zones’ where such incidents take place. Although caste discrimination exists in both urban and rural areas — the the expression of this is very different in terms of degree. It is in interior regions, where this is regularly expressed violently. These zones need to be mapped and studied,” he said.
BSP Lok Sabha MP Bali Ram said: “This is a very sad incident. The Indian Constitution says that no individual can be discriminated against on the basis of caste. And yet, what happened to this child is based on caste and if he didn’t belong to a scheduled caste, he would never have faced this. The fact that such incidents can take place even after 75 years of independence is shameful and condemnable. I know of a case in Rajasthan in which an SP had to seek protection to ride a horse at his own wedding. If an SP needs to resort to such measures, what recourse do normal people have?”
Sampla said: “There are schools in the country where even in the mid-day meals provided to children, different food is served to lower-caste and upper-caste students. These issues need to be investigated and looked into immediately and we will be investigating. The fact that this incident took place in a school, against a child, by someone who was seemingly educated, and not an illiterate individual who lacked awareness or exposure, is even more alarming.”