Forty-nine-year-old Ram Niwas says only a gun licence can keep him safe now. A few days back, his two sons, along with seven other Dalits, were injured in a clash with Jats and other caste members in Mirchpur village of Hisar district, which first hit headlines in 2010 when houses of 18 Dalits were set on fire, killing a man and his physically challenged daughter.
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Like Ram Niwas, 40 more Dalits have also applied for arms licences after the recent clash which has once again revived fears among them.
Hisar SP Rajender Kumar Meena says, “As per records, the scheduled caste community, including Valmiki and others, already have 54 gun licences. Others (non-Dalits) do not have many gun licences.”
Valmikis form a very small chunk of the population here. “They have only 350 votes, out of the total 6,562 voters in the village,” says village sarpanch Satyawan Singh. “Only Valmikis among the Dalits have arms licences. We are the target of upper caste members. Though there are policemen in each corner of Valmiki colony, they cannot save us every time we go out. If we have licenced arms, it would be easy to save ourselves,” says Ram Niwas, a labourer.
Echoing similar sentiments, Dalit panchayat member Vijay Kumar says, “Every Dalit in this village wants an arms licence to save his life.”
Almost 100 police personnel led by a DSP have been deployed in this small Dalit colony to avoid caste clashes. In 2010, all accused were Jats, but now the police have booked Brahmins, Lohars and Khatis also in connection with the recent clash, which happened after a minor altercation between local boys. CCTV cameras are also being installed in the colony.
However, many Dalits think a licensed weapon is essential for their security. Jaswant Chauhan, a Dalit and a government school teacher, says, “In 2010 violence, the violent mob did not enter the street in which two Valmikis had licenced guns.”
“Now, I am also thinking of an arms licence,” says another Dalit Ajmer Singh, whose two sons also received injuries in the recent clash.
Non-Dalits too want arms
However, non-Dalits are worried over the scramble among Dalits for arms licences. Recently, they held a panchayat to demand arms licences for themselves too.
“I have already signed 37 fresh requests from Dalits for arms licences,” says Sarpanch Satyawan Singh. “Villagers are worried over increasing number of arms in the village. Non-Dalits have less than 10 armed licences. The panchayat doesn’t have any problem if the arms licences are sought for employment purposes, like the job of security guards in banks.”
Hisar Deputy Commissioner Nikhil Gajraj, who issues arms licences, clarified that licences were issued keeping in view the threat perception in individual cases. “We issue a licence only after receiving a police verification report,” says the deputy commissioner.
Meanwhile, Dalits in the village met Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar in Chandigarh on Thursday to demand job and their rehabilitation out of the village. “He has assured to fulfill our demands, but did not tell the place for rehabilitation,” says Ashwani Chauhan, who was also part of the delegation which met the CM.