A dalit RTI activist, who was assaulted by a few masked men in Jaisalmer last week, opened up to The Indian Express on Monday, recounting the torture he underwent for exposing massive land encroachment in the frontier district.
On Saturday, 12 men allegedly abducted Babu Ram Chauhan — a government school teacher posted in Ranau village — beat him up, shaved his head, forced him to drink urine and left him for dead. All for raising his voice against the land mafia. The state police has assured Babu Ram’s family that the accused would be caught by late Monday.
“Nearly 12 masked men came in a jeep, abducted me and took me to a spot 50 km from Ranau. They stripped me and made me roll over in the hot desert sand that afternoon. After that they beat me up really bad. I suffered multiple fractures on both legs and one hand. The doctors here did surgeries on my legs. Now it is the turn of my fractured hand,” the 36-year-old told The Indian Express over phone from a hospital in Deesa, Gujarat.
“I kept pleading the whole time. But after a point, I stopped screaming and pretended to be unconscious. Taking me for dead, they started making plans to dispose my body. Some wanted to burn me, while others wanted to chop my body into pieces. I was petrified hearing them plan…but God gave me the strength to stay quiet,” he said.
The men then took him to a spot near the Indira Gandhi canal, but before they could dump him into the canal, some villagers spotted them and raised a cry, at which they fled, leaving him on the ground.
Babu Ram said he has been working to expose illegal encroachment over massive tracts of land reserved for SCs and STs since 2008.
But it was only recently that he realised the extent to which the land mafia could go in order to hush up things.
“For people in the desert, bloody battles over land are rare. After all, there’s so much land here. But now I know, all of desert wouldn’t be enough for these people,” he said.
“I have filed a lot of RTI applications to access land records etc. Using that information, I registered FIRs against several encroachers who work as mafia. I was lucky as the police and district administration moved fast on these cases,” said Babu Ram. In the resulting action, nearly 40 murbas or 1,000 bighas of land were found to be illegally occupied, leading to largescale rejection of ownership claims, he says.
Meanwhile, former chief minister Ashok Gehlot and state Congress president Sachin Pilot strongly condemned the incident. The assault on Babu Ram seems to be in line with the rising trend of atrocities against Dalits in Rajasthan, with the Dangawas caste violence — also borne out of feud over land reserved for SCs — being the most recent such case to hit national headlines. According to National Crime Records Bureau, Rajasthan tops the country when it comes to the rate of total cognizable crimes against Dalits.
In terms of incidents of crimes against SCs, it stands third — after Uttar Pradesh and Bihar — recording 6,475 crimes as per latest data.