'They couldn’t stand us!': Fact Finding Report On Dalit Family set afire in Haryana village

 

They couldn't stand us!1

sunpedh 1

Fact Finding Report On Dalit Family set afire in Village Sunpedh, Ballabgarh, District Faridabad, Haryana

 Written by

 NDMJ-NCDHR

Fact Finding Team

 Adv. Mangla Verma - HRLN

 Ms.Tanvi, Programme Officer– HRLN

 Mr. Rajesh KumarHaryana State Coordinator NDMJ - NCDHR

 Adv. Balwant Singh NDMJ-NCDHR

 Ms. AbiramiNational Programme Coordinator, NDMJ NCDHR

~

Introduction

Background

The immediate background of this fact finding is the deadly attack on a Dalit family in Sunpedh (village), Faridabad (district), Haryana (State). This family of four was set on fire while they were asleep2. On 19th October 2015 a Jagran3 was held in Sunpedh. Jitender S/o Dalchand, Rekha w/o Jitender and their two children attended the Jagran and went back home early. They were fast asleep on their bed, next to the window. The window was open. At around 2.30 am, Jitender woke up, after he sensed a strong stench of petrol. The men standing at the window poured petrol on the family. By the time, Jitender could wake up his wife, flames had engulfed the bed. The two doors to the room were locked from outside in order to prevent the family members from escaping the fire. Divya D/o Jitender and Rekha and Vaibhav S/o Jitender and Rekha; ten months and one and a half years old respectively, succumbed to the burns and died. Certain media reports state that the children suffered more than 70% thermal burns. Rekha, their mother is hospitalized in Safdarjung, Delhi and continues to remain critical. Jitender, their father suffered burns on his hands. He has been discharged and is back in Sunpedh, Faridabad.

Before we get into the details of the present incident, a better look at the social, economic and political background of the family, village and neighborhood is very important. This would help us connect the above incident to a long chain of events which made life impossible for this Dalit family in Sunpedh.

Certain media reports and a Mahapanchayat of Kshatriyas, Brahmins and Rajputs4 claim that the incident is a result of the 'feud between two families' and it has nothing to do with caste. However, such claims fell flat when we visited Sunpedh and saw the absolute dominance of Rajputs. Thus, the fight was neither 'equal' nor unmarked by 'caste'.

Sunpedh village in Faridabad comes under Pritla Constituency in the state of Haryana. It has over 250 Rajput households, 15 Valmiki households, 80 Chamar households and a few other castes. Most of the land in the village is owned and controlled by the Rajputs. They hold sway over the public institutions in the village. The locale has many modern amenities such as schools, colleges and banks. The proximity to Faridabad city has also has an impact on the village and its form. In other words, the village is part of an urban locale which is rapidly restructuring itself.

Jitender and his family belong to the Chamar community. Through their hard work and determination they achieved relative economic stability and educational mobility. For instance, Jitender worked as a compounder in a Clinic. Jitender's cousin brother Jagmal was elected as a Sarpanch in the year 2010. This family also has engineers, advocates and government officials. However, one needs to remember that this upward mobility was achieved in the face of persistent hostility by Rajputs of Sunpedh. As Jitender's relative, Hirdesh puts it, "They were jealous that we were living well. They couldn't take that one of us is a Sarpanch, a doctor, an engineer."

The accused Balwant S/o Chitta belongs to the dominant Rajput community and is a resident of Sunpedh. His wife, Rajan was the Sarpanch from 2005-10 on the reserved seat for women, but Balwant called the shots through his wife.

Jitender's cousin brother Jagmal, s/o Ved Prakash was elected as the sarpanch in 2010. His tenure witnessed several changes in the village. He built concrete roads, provided piped water facility and electricity. Many Rajputs also supported Jagmal and were content with his performance. One of the Rajput women, whom the Fact Finding Team interacted with, testified this fact. Recognizing the changes in the village and dedication to the community, Sarpanch Jagmal was honored with "The Best Sarpanch Award" in 2010-11 by the then President of India, Pratibha Patil.

Jagmal's electoral win led to a shift in the power hierarchies within the village, aggravating hatred and insecurities among the Rajputs, especially Balwant's family. Balwant felt threatened by the political assertions of Jagmal.

2014 Incident

The present incident has its genesis in the political relations, upward mobility and changes which occurred before and during Jagmal's tenure as a Sarpanch in opposition to Balwant's wife.

In October 2014, the Rajputs captured images of women from Jitender's family while they were in the field. The Rajputs picked on the womenfolk of the family in order to mock and shut down the Dalit family.

On 5th October 2014, the images were shown to one of the member of the Dalit family. The mobile was snatched and thrown into the drain in order to destroy the images. The scuffle went violent on both sides there were severe injuries, with broken limbs and injuries on the head. 3 members of Balwant's family succumbed to the injuries namely, Mohan Lal alias Pappu s/o Tularam ; Indras alias Pappi s/o Rambhu Singh and Bharat Pal S/o Pohapi Singh (all belong to Rajput community).

Yet, the aggrieved (Jitender's) family states the police did not investigate the entire case; the police booked a case against the Dalit family taking a complaint from the Rajputs. The investigation was one-sided, and soon 11 members of Jitender's family were arrested including Jagmal who was not present when the incident occurred. On the day of the incident Jagmal, the Sarpanch had gone on political campaign with MLA Ragubir Tevtiya from Janoli. The family members pointed out that the MLA along with Sarpanchs of 21 villages are willing to testify the same. Additionally, there are video clippings of the campaign. Dalbir Singh (another family member mentioned in the FIR) was in the nursing home with his wife. The family has all the records from the Nursing home.

They are booked under sections 148, 149, 302, 323, 324 of the IPC out of whom 9 of them are still languishing in jail (2 women members are out on bail after six to seven months of imprisonment). The list of the Dalits mentioned in the FIR is enlisted below5:

table 1a

table 1bVed Prakash, Bans Lal and Lakhan Pal are sons of Lalji. Jagmal and Dalbir Singh are sons of Ved Prakash. Pawan and Satendra are sons of Late Mr. Dalchand ( first cousin of Ved Prakash, Bansi Lal and Lakhan Pal). They are the siblings of Jitender. Sunil Kumar Gautam is the son of Bansi Lal. Anup is the son of Late Mr. Ram Kishan (another first cousin of Ved Prakash, Bansi Lal and Lakhan Pal). In short, for the past one year, most of the earning male members of the family are behind bars. Only women and children are left in the village.

On 6th October 2014, Balwant and his associates looted cash and jewelry from Jitender's family as most of them were in prison. More than five Dalit houses were burnt down during the same period by the Rajputs. Jitender was threatened by Balwant and his associates to leave the village along with the family. Jitender approached the police but the police did not take action. Jitender,his wife and children, and other relatives like Brijesh, Rekha's aunt left due to threats and non-action by the police.They left the village for almost three months.

Seeking Police Protection

The family members who had fled the villageapproached the National Commission for Scheduled Castes complaining on the threats received from Balwant Rajput and his associates. National Commission ordered police protection for Jitender and his family. Initially 10-15 police constables were appointed. Jitender, Rekha, their children and Brijesh (Rekha's aunt) returned to the village only after three months on 14th January 2015.The protection was scaled back over time with a fewer number of constables on duty. The family alleged that the police meant of their protection, used to have tea from Rajput homes and update them on all that happens in the Dalit family.

Social and Economic Boycott

On their return, the dominant Rajputs ordered a social and economic boycott on the family. According to Hritesh, Jitender's nephew, the social boycott ensured that they could not even buy their daily ration like milk from the village. The family members testify that each time they walked on street, went to fields they were abused using derogatory caste expressions by the Rajputs. Constant hammering of caste abuses has left the family with several psychological and social impacts. The social boycott ensured that the family lives in constant isolation, with minimal social transactions. The women in the family state that they are fed up of being locked up in their rooms.

The family members kept repeating in sorrow and anger, "Sab Kuch khatam ho chukka hain!!" The family is witnessing a death of all prosperity. Children are not going to schools. Hirtesh and his father point out that the Rajputs have made them a 'zero'.

No Access to Counsel or Court

Another dimension of social boycott is the complete shutdown of all legal facilities for the Dalit family. Though they approached a number of lawyers including criminal lawyer KK Menon to represent their case (October 2014 incident), all of them have been intimidated and threatened by Balwant, his family and the entire Rajput fraternity in Faridabad District Court.

This might have some weigh since one of the accused, Adel who is Balwant's nephew, is also a lawyer at the Faridabad District Court. There were unconfirmed reports that he was using his clout to mobilize lawyers and not let the case progress. Jitender's family pointed out that most of the Advocates in Faridabad Court are Rajputs. The Advocates' Union is also controlled by them. Jitender's relatives state that the moment their counsel stands up to speak in the court, he is showered with abuses, forcing him to stay mum. This happens in front of the Judge. They ask, "Why would a counsel suffer such abuses for twenty thousand rupees?"

The family has filed petitions in both the Supreme Court under Adv. A.K. Singh and Chandigarh High Court for transfer of the case from Harayana to Chandigarh or Delhi.

It is in such a context of socio- economic andlegal betrayal and deprivation that the Rajputs set ablaze Jitender and his family leading to the death of Divya and Vaibhav.

Incident of burning and death of Children

A few days prior to the present incident, Balwant and his family members threatened the women of Jitender's family.On 6th October 2015, Rekha w/o Jitender went to the police station Ballabhgarh to file a complaint against them.

However, Subhash Yadav, Commissioner of Police refused to take the complaint;stating, "3 members of the Rajput community died last year , if someone dies from your side let us know".

sunpedh rekha

 Scanned Copy of the hand-written complaint submitted by Rekha Jitender on 5-10-2015

The English translation of her complaint addressed to the Station House Officer, Ballabhgarh Police Station, Sunpedh, is as follows:

Dear Sir,

I, Rekha w/o Jitender Singh, am a resident of Village: Sunped, Tehsil: Ballabhgarh, District: Faridabad. I belong to Chamar caste.

 On 5th October 2014, dabang Rajputs had come to our shop and fought over a mobile phone. The fight was so serious that three men succumbed to injuries. The Rajputs alleged that my family members killed them. Eleven members of our family were sent to jail. During the same time, Rajputs looted our homes. We had to flee from our village. We could return to our homes only after three months, on 14th January 2015 under police protection. Despite police protection, Rajputs continued to abuse us using caste names. On 4th and 5th October 2015, these Rajputs came to our home and started abusing us in the following words – "Dhedho Chamaron, Haramjado, Hum tumhe gaon mein rahne nahi denge" (We won't allow you to live in this village). My mother-in-law, Santa Devi, w/o Late Dalchand has identified these men. They are as follows – Akash s/o Bharatpal, Suraj s/o Killu, Nainihal s/o Pohapi, Deshraj s/o Rambhu Singh, Killu s/o Tulsiram. They entered our homes despite police protection. Our lives and property are in danger. Please look into the matter and take necessary legal action.

Date : 05-10-2015

The letter clearly mentions that the Dalit family feared for their lives and property and sort appropriate legal action. However, the police did not pay heed to any of the complaints.

On 19th October 2015, there was a Jagran in the neighborhood. Jitender's family members had gone to attend the jagran. That night only two constables were on duty. However, they were missing from the spot of their duty. Jitender along with his family retuned early from the jagran. The family – Jitender, Rekha and their children Vaibhav (one and a half years old) and Divya (10 months) were sleeping in their house on the bed next to the window. The window was open. At around 2.30 am, Jitender woke up, after he sensed a strong stench of petrol. The men standing at the window poured petrol on the family. By the time, Jitender could wake up his wife flames had engulfed the bed. The two doors to the room were locked from outside in order to prevent the family members from escaping the fire. Divya D/o Jitender and Rekha and Vaibhav S/o Jitender and Rekha, ten months and one and a half years old respectively, succumbed to the burns and died. Certain media reports state that the children suffered more than 30% thermal burns.

On 20th October 2015, guard in-charge (police personnel) Mr. Khan accompanied the victims to BLK Hospital Ballabhgarh from where they were referred to Safdarganj Hospital, Delhi. The children succumbed to the burn injuries on the way to Delhi.

On 20th October 2015, Jitender with the help of his family members files an FIR (Cr. No. 325/15) in Ballabhgarh Sadar Police Station under sections 147, 149, 452, 436, 302, 307 of IPC 1860 and SC/ST PoA Act under section 3.

Dr. Umakant6 in his report translates the FIR as follows:

Acts applied in the case: Indian Penal Code (IPC) 1860- Sections: 147/149/452/436/302/307. Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989- Section: 3.

Occurrence of Offence: Day- Tuesday; Time- 02.30 hrs; Date: 20.10.2015.

Place of Occurrence: Direction and Distance from Police Station- South/7.0 K.M.

Type of Information: Hand Written

Complainant/Informant: Jitendra, S/O, Dalchand; Address- Village Sunped, Police Station Sadar Ballabhgarh, District Faridabad.

Details of Known/Suspect/Unknown accused with full particulars: 11.

FIR Contents: To, Mr. SHO, Police Station Sadar Ballabhgarh.

I Jitendra, S/o, Dalchand, by caste Jatav(Chamar), reside in village Sunped, Police Station Sadar Ballabhgarh, District Faridabad. I run an R.M.P. Doctor Clinic. We were having a conflict with Balwant, S/o, Chhidda and others in the village. On 19/20.10.2015 a religious function (Jagran) was organised in our village and some of my family members were attending it. I was sleeping with my family and children in the house. Some members of Balwant's family scaled up the boundary wall and entered the house, poured petrol through the opened window and below the main entry door of the house. Petrol fell on me and I woke up. It was around 2/2.30 A.M. and after opening the door of the house I saw Balwant, S/o Chhidda, Jagat, S/o, Balwant, Aidal, S/o, Rambhu, and Naunihal, S/o, Pohpi. They entered my house by that time. I also saw Jogindra, Suraj- S/o, Khillu, Akash and Aman- S/o, Balu alias Bharatpal, Sanjay- S/o, Pohpi, Dharam Singh- S/o, Balwant, and Deshraj- S/o, Rambhu. By that time, inside the house Aidal- S/o, Rambhu and Naunihal- S/o, Pohpi lit up the match stick set afire. All of them ran away as the fire spread. They were shouting and saying that we have to kill these Chamar Dheds. My wife Rekha and two children were badly burnt. I started shouting that my house is in fire and after listening to my voice for help neighbors came and took us out. We were taken to General Hospital Ballabhgarh by a private vehicle for treatment. Doctor gave the initial treatment and referred us to Safdarjung Hospital, New Delhi. My children Vaibhav and Divya died on the way before we reached Safdarjung Hospital. My wife and I are getting treatment at the same hospital in New Delhi. Since you have come to the hospital, I hereby submit a written complaint to you and request you to act strictly against all the accused.

Sincerely- Jitendra, S/o, Dalchand, resident of Sunpedh village.

sunpedh fir

Photographs of the FIR copy (Cr. No.325/15) filed by Jitender on 20th October 2015, 9.00am

Soon after the initial media report on the children's death, protests were organized in Sunpedh. When the fact finding team visited the village,the entire neighborhood was packed with police personnel. The Dalit villagers were mourning and protesting the killing of the children.

Current Status

• Government of Haryana announced 10 lakh compensation for the victim family.

• Balwant Singh s/o Chitta, Dharam Singh s/o Balwant Singh, Sanjay and Kartar- Balwant's cousins, Aman and Akash- s/o deceased Bharat Pal Singh, Suraj s/o Killu. Four others named in the FIR are Deshraj and Adel- s/o Rambhu Singh, Balwant's cousin, Naunihal s/o Tope Singh, Balwant's younger brother and Joginder s/o Tularam, Balwant's brother are arrested on the killing of the two children and attacking the family. All the accused are arrested under FIR no 325/15 at police station Ballabhgarh Sadar under sections 147, 149, 452, 436, 302, 307 of IPC 1860 and SC/ST PoA Act under section 3.

• The state government has formed an SIT to investigate the incident and also ordered a CBI probe.

• According to Dainik Jagran report dated 28/10/15, Dalits in Sunpedh are not happy with the SIT investigation and are demanding CBI investigation. They are also demanding a compensation of Rs. 1 crore and government employment for one member of the family.

• The condition of Rekha continues to be critical.

• Seven accused have been arrested by the enforcement officials.

Key Findings

1. The facts of the 19th October 2015 incident clearly indicated that it is one of the most tragic episodes in the long chain of social crimes orchestrated against the Dalit Family in Sunpedh, Faridabad. It is not a matter of family animosity. On the other hand, it is an incident of systemic violence against Dalits by propertied and influential Rajputs. Post –October 2014 incident, the family was boycotted socially and economically.

2. The police did not register a single FIR based on the complaint given by the Dalit family after the 5thOctober 2014 incident, though Dalits were severely injured by the Rajputs. The events that followed the incident include loot, robbery, dispossession and arson of Dalits and their property by Rajputs.

3. In the 5th October 2014 incident, 11 members of the Dalit family were booked on the complaint filed by the Rajputs and sent to jail. These 11 members include 9 men and 2 women. The men arrested were key earning members of the family.

4. The Dalit family had to bring a counsel from Delhi as the advocates in Faridabad District Court (mostly Rajputs) were not ready to take up the case. The family clearly stated that the ambience inside and outside the court is extremely hostile and frightening. Their advocate is not allowed to put up their arguments in the court. In short, the Dalit family is systemically denied the right to fair trail and thereby justice.

5. In such a situation, the family has filed a petition with the Honorable Supreme Court, to transfer the trial procedures of the case outside Harayana, preferably in Chandigarh or Delhi.

6. After the October 2014 incident, the Dalit family was forced to leave the village out of fear. The family was displaced and scattered for over 3 months. It was only after the intervention of National Commission for Scheduled Castes that the Dalit family returned to the village with police protection on 14th January 2015.

7. The Dalit family pointed out that initially around 7 police constables were appointed for their protection. However, over the past 8 months the number has been dwindling. On 19th October 2015, when the family was set ablaze, there were no police constables near Jitender's residence, though two of them were on duty, as per the family members.

8. On 6th October 2015, Rekha, w/o Jitender Singh had submitted written complaintsto the Commissioner of Police after the family was threatened by Rajputs. However, these complaints were dismissed by the authorities. In fact,the Commissioner commented - "3 members of the Rajput community died last year, if someone dies from your side let us know". In the complaint Rekha clearly mentions that the family fears for its life and property. It demanded appropriate legal action and precautionary measures.

9. Over the past one year, the police authority has displayed blatant willful negligence on several occasions. This is a punishable offence u/s 4 of SCs and STs (PoA) Act, 1989.

10. In the FIR filed on the 19th October incident, it should be noted that specific sections under SC/ST Act such as 3 (1) (x), 3 (2) (iii), 3 (2) (iv), 3 (2) (v), and 3 (1) (xv) were not invoked.

Recommendations

We would be grateful if you would kindly intervene personally and take the following steps:-

1. Immediate arrest of the other four accused persons involved as they may threat the Victims and other family members of the deceased.

2. Effective protection to the family members of the deceased, Mr. Jitender and the entire eye witnesses in this case.

3. Ensure that in the FIR filed on the 19th October 2015 (Cr. No. 325/15) incident, specific sections under SC/ST Act such as 3 (1) (x), 3 (1) (xv) , 3 (2) (iii), 3 (2) (iv), 3 (2) (v), are invoked.

4. Immediate action by the Government under Section 4 of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, against the Station House Officer and Commissioner of Police, Ballabhgarh, for willful negligence in not registering the complaints of the Victims for the incident occurred in October 2014 and only registering a case against Dalits even though they also got injured in the same incident. For not taking any action against the accused persons on the threats given to the Dalit victims on 6th October 2015. The concerned police officials should be prosecuted under Section 4 of PoA Act with immediate departmental action in the form of suspension

5. Establish Exclusive Special Court in the district Ballabhgarh for the speedy trial of the case under SCs and STs [PoA] Act 1989 and ensuring the completion of the trial within 90 days with free legal aid to the victims and witnesses.

6. Immediate compensation of Rs 10 lakhs to be paid to the dependents of the deceased.

7. Immediately establish a CBI enquiry to investigate into the series of cases linked in the particular incident.

8. As per Section 16 of PoA Act, 1989 the State Government should impose and realize collective fine on the Rajput dominated village of Sunpedh, Faridabad, Haryana.

9. Home Minister of Harayana should take the responsibility and resign as he has severely failed in curbing violence against Dalits in the state of Haryana.

10. Government should take immediate measures to declare the State of Haryana as Atrocity Prone State as per Section 17 of SCs and STs (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 and take necessary preventive actions to maintain public order and tranquility.

11. State Government should make sure that Khap Panchayats should not decide the fate of cases of atrocities. The rule of law should prevail and triumph.

12. The State Government should uphold and ensure free and fair trial by providing adequate legal aid to the affected Dalit family. We strongly recommend in-camera trial to check intimidations and threats within the court.

~

Notes

[1]. Jitender's family kept repeating this sentence as they recollected the events. The Dalit family's act of 'living well' was the biggest reason for all their hardships. The Rajputs simply couldn't stand their well-being.

[2]. See http://www.firstpost.com/india/caste-violence-faridabads-Sunpedh-village-tense-after-burning-of-dalit-children-govt-plans-cbi-probe-2477760.html ; http://www.firstpost.com/india/ugly-face-of-caste-violence-despite-police-protection-dalit-children-burnt-alive-in-haryana-2476088.html ; http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/two-members-of-a-dalit-family-burnt-alive-in-faridabad/1/503070.html; http://www.hindustantimes.com/india/faridabad-2-children-of-dalit-family-burnt-alive-in-attack/story-BiShOEAMSbGL8gz5Lcsb8L.html;

 [3]. Jagran typically refers to an all-night, Hindu congregational worship and vigil.

[4]. http://www.mid-day.com/articles/dalit-burning-upper-castes-hold-mahapanchayat-in-faridabad/16632185#sthash.R8ugsXSs.QTdr0cHR.dpuf

 [5]. Retrieved from http://www.countercurrents.org/umakant261015.htm

 [6]. Retrieved from http://www.countercurrents.org/umakant261015.htm

~~~

 

Illustration by E. V. Anil.

 

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