September 27, 2015 1:08:16 am
Five years after his 70-year-old father and 18-year-old disabled sister were burnt to death in Mirchpur village in Hisar district in Haryana, Amar Chauhan, 34, and his family continue to live under police protection. Their new house, in Hisar city, is located near the residence of the deputy commissioner, and is 60 km away from their village.
The policemen move with the family members every time they go for court hearings and sometimes even when they go to work. Amar and younger brother Pradeep, 24, were hired as clerks at the deputy commissioner’s office after the April 2010 riots, in which a mob of over 400 Jats targeted Dalits, leaving two members of the Chauhan family dead and 52 others injured. Another brother, Ravinder, 28, works as a peon.
While the Chauhans received a compensation of Rs 20 lakh and government accommodation a year after the incident, the other survivors of the riots continue to live in a farmhouse in tents, 2 km from Hisar. Over 300 Dalit families had fled Mirchpur following the violence.
Earlier this month, the one-man Justice Iqbal Singh Commission set up by Haryana to probe the violence blamed police for acting as “mute spectators” and “failing” to prevent the rioting.
The Chauhans are fighting in the Delhi High Court the acquittal of 82 people accused in the violence. Of the 100 named, 15 were convicted and three given life imprisonment. “No one, from politicians to relatives, wanted us to pursue the case in court,” says Amar.
At the farmhouse, spread over 3.5 acres, where the other 130 Dalit families who refused to return to Mirchpur continue to live, stand scores of hutments with plastic sheets for roof, shared by up to five members of a family. The farmhouse belongs to Dalit activist Ved Pal Tanwar.
The victims have just lived through monsoon, when the whole place had got water-logged. “Finding clean water is a challenge. Earlier, the government sent water tankers. Now we call our own and there are frequent fights,” says Rinku, whose relatives were injured in the 2010 violence.
A handful of tents sport TV sets, refrigerators and air-coolers.
What hurts the riot victims most is the price their children are paying. “The closest primary school is 2 km away,” says a resident.
“Those who come with marriage offers want to see our houses and the conditions we are living in. Who will marry our children?” adds Kasturi, an elderly woman.
Despite the problems, says Dilbag Singh, “There is no question of returning to Mirchpur. We still fear for our safety. For two years, everyone here got food from Tanwarji’s house, now we go to Hisar everyday to find work.”
Of the 130 families at the farm, houses of 18 were burnt down in the riots. The state government gave the 18 Rs 25.11 lakh as compensation and built homes for them under the Indira Awas Yojana.
But the new houses in Mirchpur remain empty and are now run over by pigs. Balmiki Colony, where the riots took place, is like a fortress, with entry points manned by CRPF personnel.
Dilbag Singh, along with other families, wants the government to help them build homes away from Mirchpur.
Families of some of the convicted Jat men who have served their sentence and returned to the village, however, insist the situation is “improving”and they are once again offering jobs to Dalits. “The two communities are living peacefully and there have been no cases of violence,” says Kamlesh, the sarpanch.
Among the few from the other side willing to bury the hatchet, incidentally, is Karan Singh, whose scuffle with Jats triggered the violence. He feels the government has done enough, “families have already got their compensation”.
However, Karan himself now lives in Kaithal, over 100 km from Mirchpur.
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