[WSF-Discuss] PMARC : Dalits Media Watch - News Updates 17.05.14
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Sat May 17 09:37:32 CDT 2014
*Dalits Media Watch*
*News Updates 17.05.14*
*Reliving a nightmare-** The Hindu*
*Industrial policy for Dalits sought-** The Hindu*
*Reliving a nightmare*
*Four Dalit girls were drugged and gang raped by Jat men in Haryana's Hisar
district in March this year. The writer describes a community's fight for
There's not much 13-year-old Manju remembers about the night of March 23.
She knows she and three other girls were abducted from their village of
Bhagana in Haryana's Hisar district. She knows they were drugged and raped.
She knows what her body remembers, the weight of one man after another on
top of her. And the pain she woke up to the next morning.
"*Unka wazan yaad hai*," says Manju. "*Thoda thoda hosh toh tha tab tak*.
(I remember their weight. I was conscious for a while.)"
Manju, Reema (17), Asha (17), Rajni (18), are Dalit girls of the Dhanuk
sub-caste. On the evening of March 23, they had gone to a field near their
homes to urinate. They were set upon by five men from the dominant Jat
caste, drugged, gang raped in the fields and carried off in a car. They
were found outside Bhatinda's railway station across the border in Punjab
the next morning. Though an FIR was filed under the Prevention of
Atrocities (SC/ST) Act, the five men -- Lalit, Sumit, Sandeep, Parimal,
Dharamvir -- were arrested on April 29, and the case is being fought in the
Hisar District court by lawyer Ramniwas Sharma. Things are murkier than
they appear to be, as is often the case in caste-ridden Haryana.
Hence, 90 Dalit families from Bhagana, including the girls', have been
protesting at Delhi's Jantar Mantar since April 16, with 120 others
protesting at Hisar's Mini Secretariat. They refuse to go home. There is
nothing left for them there, only fear and the looming spectre of revenge.
One of their demands is that village sarpanch Rakesh Kumar Pangal and his
uncle Virender -- related to the perpetrators through intricate ties of
*gotra*-- be named in the FIR. Rakesh, the families say, knew all along
where the girls were and tried to cover up their rape.
Fanning herself in the stifling heat in a tent at Jantar Mantar, one of the
first things Manju talks about is the car.
"*Pata nahi woh safed gaadi kahan se ayl* (I don't know where that white
car came from)." Reema recalls how the men overpowered them easily and
stuffed handkerchiefs soaked in some drug in their mouths. The powerful
sedative acted quickly and the girls started to lose consciousness. But
they remember being raped in the field before they blacked out. Days later,
when the police examined the field, the families say that they found broken
crops, an earring torn from someone's ear and a lone slipper, all signs of
The rest of the night is lost to all four. Huddled together, little Manju
the most forthcoming, and Asha the quietest, they support each other's
narration with interjections. Rajni's mother and elder sister help fill in
the gaps. When the girls did not return and the families failed to find
them, they approached Rakesh for help. He sent them home with reassurances.
Within five minutes, he called them back, saying that all four girls were
with his relative in Bhatinda. They were to be fetched the next day.
"We woke up around 9.30 or 10 next morning in the bushes outside the
railway station in Bhatinda," says Rajni. Lost, befuddled and in pain, they
tried asking for help. "But the Punjabis couldn't understand us and we
couldn't understand them," Manisha says, her thick Haryanvi accent
testimony to the language barrier. They knew what had happened to
shareer se pata lag raha tha*(We knew from signs on our body)," explains
At 2.30 p.m., their families, brought to Bhatinda by Rakesh and Virender,
found them. The two put the four girls in the car and asked the relatives
to go ack by train due to lack of space. En-route, the girls allege that
Rakesh abused them, beat them and tried to threaten them to stay silent.
"He told us *agar kisi koh bataya toh jaan se mar doonga* (If you tell
anyone I will kill you)," says Manju. When they reached Bhagana around
nightfall, Rakesh tried to drive them to his place. "He wanted to marry us
off to these men," Reema explains "so that he could say we all ran away
from home to get married." That is when the Dalit boys surrounded the car
and somehow extricated the girls.
The next few days were a nightmare. The sarpanch had made enough calls to
the police by morning to hinder the FIR process. Jagdish Kalja, a Dalit social
worker from the village, says that only when 200 people surrounded the
*thana*, the FIR got filed. The medical exam at Hisar's general
hospital, on March
25, was inexplicably long, making the girls wait from morning till 1.30 at
night. Asked about the two-finger test, girls said that they were subjected
to it. Only when the medical report confirmed rape did the police at Sadar
Hisar Police Station file a proper complaint. But Rakesh and Virender's
names were absent, despite the girls naming them in their testimonies.
There is little comfort in the fact that the perpetrators confessed. "How
can we go back to the village?" ask the girls, their sisters, mothers and
aunts. Dalits, mostly farm labourers and servants, are hopelessly
outnumbered by the powerful land-owning Jats. They fear not only the loss
of honour but the very credible threat of revenge.
"The sarpanch's mother has said that any returning Dalit will be killed,"
says Rajni's elder sister. It is common wisdom in Haryana that if harm
befalls one Jat, the whole community rises up in arms. "The system belongs
to Jats; they've given money to the police. They can confess without fear
of anything happening to them," adds Kalja. They confide about how Rakesh
himself had raped the daughter of a water works employee a few months ago
and hushed up the whole affair.
Bhagana is a microcosm of Haryana's caste violence. As Kalja explains, the
Jats, during Rakesh's tenure, have socially boycotted the Dalits since
2011, grabbed 208 acres of their common land and not let any social welfare
schemes be implemented. In 2011, 138 Dalit families left Bhagana, and have
since been living at Hisar's Mini Secretariat. About 150 *Dhanuk* families
stayed back. The protest made no dent in the living conditios. Dalit girls
are still teased, molested and chased by Jat boys on their way to school,
Dalit boys are beaten up for standing up for them, Dalit labourers are
physically exploited and abused. Asha, Reema and Rajni all left school
after Std. VIII, unable to face daily harassment. Manju was only in Std. V.
She had her exam the day she woke up in Bhatinda.
Just like the 2010 exodus of Dalits in Mirchpur, there is no going back.
Kalja reckons that there are only 40 Dalit families left in Bhagana.
Lawyers from the Human Rights Law Network have appealed in the Chandigarh
High Court for their rehabilitation, education and for livelihood in
cities, for the protection of the four girls and the constitution of an
impartial SIT. "Jats are dominant in Haryana so this case might not be
investigated properly," says Varnika Singh, an HRLN lawyer.
On May 11, the Dalits protested outside the Delhi residence of Bhupender
Singh Hooda, Haryana's Jat CM.
Since setting up camp at Jantar Mantar, the families have met a host of
politicians hoping for justice; they've met Ashok Kanwar, Congress MP from
Sirsa and senior Congress leaders Motilal Vora and Oscar Fernandes.
They've tried to and failed to meet Sonia Gandhi. They're fighting to not
fade away like countless other Dalits who have been relegated to
yesterday's newspaper columns.
Industrial policy for Dalits sought
The Karnataka State SC, ST Entrepreneurs and Industrialists' Association
has urged the State government to formulate a separate industrial policy
for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe entrepreneurs. Quoting a report of
the Department of Industries and Commerce, State honorary president C.G.
Srinivasan said only 3.6 per cent of SC, ST community have availed the
benefits of investment subsidy schemes in the last six years in Karnataka.
-- Staff Correspondent
*News Monitor by Girish Pant*
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