Phulwari village in Haryana’s Palwal area has been rife with tension for the last two months, after a 21-year-old Dalit student was beaten up, allegedly by two members of the Gujjar community, when he refused to perform household work for them. Since then, two FIRs more have been registered — one by another Dalit boy alleging violence and use of “casteist” language, and another by a member of the Gujjar community, alleging violence by 15 Dalit when the two groups met at a temple last week to “reach an understanding”.
“We have received FIRs from both groups and the incidents are being investigated. No arrest has been made so far,” said inspector Devender, SHO of Sadar Palwal police station.
The incidents, locals said, have created a sense of “fear and apprehension”, with some from the Dalit community reportedly fleeing their homes. “Around 10 families have fled the village and are staying with relatives. We don’t think we can live here anymore… we will eventually have to sell our land and make arrangements to move elsewhere,” claimed the father of the 21-year-old Dalit student.
As per the FIR registered in the first incident on April 21, the student was heading to a nursing home where his sister was admitted. “My father told me to get Rs 5,000… I borrowed a neighbour’s bike and set off for the hospital,” he said. On the way, he claimed, he met a man from the Gujjar community, who asked him to do some household work. “I told him to let me go as my sister was unwell, but he beat me up. His brother showed up with a stick and hit me on my arms and shoulders,” he alleged.
According to residents and police, Phulwari is a Gujjar-dominated village, with around 15% of the population being Dalit. Members of the Dalit community said this is the first time things have escalated to this extent. They claimed things came to a head on June 1, when a 19-year-old aspiring to join the Haryana police was allegedly beaten and abused without provocation.
Village sarpanch Surender Kumar, however, denied the claims: “These were small fights that have escalated. We intend to hold a panchayat on Sunday to resolve the issues… People have lived here peacefully and will continue to do so.”