Within their own caste,the family of 17-year-old Jaimal Kumar faced jealousy,festering over several years because they had done well for themselves. Outside their caste,they faced hostility because they were a Dalit family in the predominantly upper caste Devsar village.
Jealousy and caste hostility combined in macabre fashion to snatch Jaimal away on Tuesday night,believes the family.
Early on Wednesday,Jaimals father got a call from police saying his son had been found dead in a car. Jaimal had been allegedly tied to a tree and the car the same one that he was found in rammed repeatedly into his body. The accused: a Dalit and an upper caste Rajput.
At 9.30 pm on Tuesday night,Jaimal told his father Rajpal that he was going to meet two friends,23-year-old Praveen Singh,a Rajput,and Kuldeep Kumar,18,from their own caste. Wary of the simmering animosity,Rajpal advised Jaimal not to go. But his son insisted.
I thought the fight was between the elders of the community. Jaimal would tell me that caste did not matter,and I wanted him to live a life free of fear. But I made a mistake. Early the next morning,he was found dead, Rajpal said.
In his complaint to the police,Rajpal has narrated an incident from over a year ago.
On December 4,2011,my brothers son (Jaimals cousin) Veervan was getting married. We had arranged for Veervan to be brought to the mandap on an elephant. The Rajputs in the village took offence. They said we had no right to use an elephant,which was a Rajput symbol of regality. They put a knife to Veervans throat and we had to send the elephant back. Praveens family was involved. I was the complainant in the police case,and they had been pressuring me to withdraw ever since. Things have been on the boil since then, Rajpal said.
Asked why a fellow Dalit would want to kill Jaimal,the family said it was envy.
As most other villages,the lower castes in our village are poor and do odd jobs. Except our family. Rajpal is the only Dalit man who has two shops on the main road which have considerable value. Veervans father Ram Krishan has a transport company which has four vehicles. Another brother works as a bank manager in Karnal. The others didnt like this,and were envious. They used to make snide remarks that Rajpal was good for nothing and he had become well off only because of his fathers property. We havent included this in the complaint because we dont want to cause further divisions among our own, said Rampal,Jaimals uncle.
Senior police officers said they had so far not found evidence to back the familys caste-hatred-and-envy theory. We registered a case of atrocity against SC/ST on the basis of the familys complaint. What is clear so far is that the three consumed alcohol. We still have to establish whether Jaimal was forced to drink. While there are strangulation marks as well,the cause of death is haemorrhage to multiple organs because of heavy impact,Simardeep Singh,senior superintendent of police,Bhiwani,said.
They seemed to have had an argument because of personal enmity. The two accused have been arrested and have been taken on police remand. It is yet to be established why the fight took place, the SSP said.
Local policemen from the police station that Devsar falls under confirmed that the village was indeed divided. The elephant incident brought things to a head. One of the accused told us that while he had been friends with Jaimal since childhood,he was also irritated with the fact that he would flaunt his familys rise despite the odds, said an officer who declined to be named.
This officer said that the suspect had told them that he had only wanted to hurt Jaimal,not to kill him. But because they were inebriated,things went out of control, the officer said.
Half of Devsars 5,000 people are Rajputs. Some 40 per cent are Dalits,and the rest Brahmins. I have one other son and five daughters. They will never fraternise with either a Rajput or a Dalit family that I do not know. I have failed to protect one son,I will not lose another, Rajpal said.