Updated: August 26, 2018 4:45:54 am
“Kamla w/o Tara Chand”, say the black letters on the beige boundary wall, the two names written in the Devanagari script. The wall, in the Valmiki colony of Mirchpur village in Haryana’s Hisar district, has no gate — and no one lives in the single-storey house that stands beyond. This house is among the locality’s 100-odd dwellings that their owners abandoned after two Dalits were burnt alive following a clash between Dalits and Jats on April 21, 2010.
“Tara Chand had returned from the pond where I had employed him to catch fish, and was sleeping on a cot outside this house. His daughter Suman was inside, when Jats set houses in the locality on fire,” said Jai Prakash, who is a Dalit and a relative of Tara Chand’s, and who had the fishing contract for the pond. Both Tara Chand, 60, and Suman, 18 were burnt alive.
“The government gave compensation to his three sons in the form of jobs and some money. But they left the village right after, and never returned. At least 200 other people from the Valmiki community, too, fled. Just 50-odd Valmiki families now live in Mirchpur,” Jai Prakash said.
Delhi High Court Friday convicted 20 people and upheld the conviction of 13 others — all from the Jat community of the village — for atrocities committed against Dalits that morning more than eight years ago. The 2011 Census recorded 1,556 Scheduled Caste residents among Mirchpur’s population of 8,737; local people say their numbers fell after the 2010 incident. Today, in each lane of Valmiki Basti, half a dozen houses stand abandoned — boundary walls are broken at places; some doors have caved in, others have rusty locks on them; floors are grimy; the soil around has been taken over by weeds.
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“Eighteen houses were rebuilt by the government. Boards were put up either with the names of original inhabitants or with the house number. But only three or four of them are occupied,” Jai Prakash said.
According to police records, the violence started after Jai Prakash’s dog, Ruby, barked at some Jat youths, which angered them. “Some Jat boys were walking to their house when she allegedly barked at them and the whole thing started. This was just an excuse for the violence that was inflicted on us later,” Jai Prakash said. Ruby, who was then 2, died two years ago, Jai Prakash said.
For six years after the violence, Mirchpur lived with a group of 75 CRPF personnel who were deployed in the village. The force was withdrawn in December 2016, after both communities assured the authorities that the tension had dissipated.
Just about a month after the CRPF left, however, nine Dalit boys were assaulted, allegedly by upper caste men. The trigger this time was a cycle-stunt show, in which a 17-year-old Dalit boy won a cash prize of Rs 1,500. Around 100 policemen were rushed to the village again.
On Saturday afternoon, police were present in strength in Mirchpur. “Armed policemen have been provided to around 20 people who are more vulnerable to threats from the other group. Police from two districts are in the village and in Hisar, where some Dalit families from Mirchpur live. The situation is completely under control,” Sanjay Kumar, IGP (Hisar Range), said.
Most Jat families declined to comment on the court order. Village sarpanch Satyavan Singh, a Jat, said: “There is no reason for any clash. The court has issued an order and the families of those convicted are going to appeal in the Supreme Court. The families feel that these people have been wrongly named, and they will fight for justice.”
Despite the claims of the police and the headman, a local Dalit said on the condition of anonymity: “Till yesterday, we would get milk and lassi from the Jats. We have not received anything for two days now.”
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