Bhagana rape survivors, fellow villagers, activists protest against Haryana CM inaction on the caste and sexual violence against Dalits; demand one crore compensation and rehabilitation
By Team FI
Haryana Chief Minister, Bhupinder Singh Hudda’s residence in New Delhi was gheraoed yesterday by hundreds of women, children and men from the Bhagana village of Hisar, Haryana, demanding justice for the four school-going Dalit girls who were kidnapped and raped on 23rd March.
The protestors, who were joined by an equal number of activists, students, writers, artists and other citizens of Delhi, alleged that the crime was committed by the upper caste men in the village and that the village head and his son were complicit in the act. The protestors demand that the perpetrators and the village head and his son’s names be included in the FIR and they be arrested. The memorandum submitted to the Haryana CM also demanded that the rape survivors’ families be rehabilitated and compensation of Rs 1 crore be paid to the girls.
In March 2014, the four young girls of the Dhanak community were kidnapped from their village Bhagana, and raped by five youths belonging to the upper caste Jat community. The girls were left near Bhatinda Railway station in Punjab after the alleged crime. When their families approached their village head for help, and said that they would file an FIR, the Sarpanch informed them about the whereabouts of the girls. The girls allege that when the Sarpanch and his men came and picked the girls, he threatened them to keep quiet about the rape and the identity of the perpetrators. The press release stated that, “This was one of the few cases of dalit atrocities that came into light; many such cases remain buried and unheard of.”
Jagdish Kajla, protest leader, said, “90 dalit families are living at Jantar Mantar since 16th April 2014 amid so many difficulties. The government has not provided us anything to survive, forget justice for the 4 girls. We will not take our protest back till our demands are met.”
The demonstrators also sought proper rehabilitation for the 400 displaced Dalit families who are living on the streets of Delhi and Hisar. Virendra Singh Wabhoria, who is leading the evicted group’s struggle at Hisar, warned Haryana government that if their demands are not met within a fortnight, their protest will expand to other places of the country. Virendra is sitting on Dharna with 120 Dalit families at the Hisar Collectarate for last two years when these families were displaced from the village Bhagana by the upper caste people.
The press release issued by the Samiti states that the girls are furious and so are their mothers. They say, ‘ Why every time, they make our bodies their battlefields?’ One girl studying in class 10th just wishes to someday be able to complete her studies. She says, ‘They have made us refugees. Bhagana is our own village but we can’t go there. What can be more fateful than this?’, she asks in desperation. One mother, with veil on her face, screams, ‘Aren’t we human? Why every time they do this to us?’ Huda has an answer, only in the form of huge barricades of police outside his house.
As per the press release, “at the heart of the conflict in Haryana is the struggle over land – its use and ownership by the poor Dalits which has been grabbed by the dominant castes. No land reforms, or access to use and ownership of the common land schemes, have been implemented till date. Bhagana’s Dalits have been vocal about their land rights, having faced the atrocities and land grab since 2003. Rape is one of the major tools to silence the Dalit community and displace them in the name of honor. The Huda government never took action against the upper caste as Rajani Tilak of National Dalit Mahila Aandolan cites, “Huda says openly that first I am a jat and then a CM”. This factor contributed to Dalit atrocities in a much more organized way because the state machinery does not act in accordance with the law. After 67 years of the independence and on the threshold of 16th Parliament, Dalits in Haryana are landless, without exception.
Jats dominate both the Gram Panchayats (Village councils) and the traditional Khaps. Their authority is backed by the significant presence of Jats in institutions and administrative positions. The state machinery thus is becoming part of propagating the entrenched caste ideology and hierarchies. The levying of sedition charges exposed a face of the state where it was no longer just exhibiting apathy towards tackling caste oppression, but actively using its authority and draconian laws to suppress any assertion challenging caste and class hierarchies. Protests against caste exploitation have become an expression of “disaffection” against the nation!”
However, the press statement points out that the Bhagana protests showed that the Dalits are continuously pressurizing state institutions, and winning victories like withdrawal of sedition charges, and making the political class sit-up and take notice both within the state and the center.
The protesters want the government to heed their following demands:
1. Arrest all the offenders in Bhagana case including Village head and his son and bring them to justice;
2. High level inquiry of the rape, displacement and land related cases;
3. Fast Track Court in Delhi for hearing of the case. Settle the case within 6 months;
4. Compensation of Rs 1 crore to each Bhagana gang rape victim;
5. Compensation of Rs 1 crore to each boycotted family in Bhagana;
6. A case should be filed against the KHAP and Gram Panchayat under the SC/ST Act;
7. Allot 400 yards plots in Gurgaon or Fridabad to each displaced family from Bhagana till they are suitably resettled in Bhagana;
8. Arrangement of proper education to all Bhagana gang rape victims and provision of government employment after completion of their education;
9. Ban on Khaap Panchayats;
10. 290 acre common land should be vacated from the clutch of the Dabangs and be distributed among the landless Dalits and other marginalised sections of the village .
Bhagana Kaand Sangharsh Samiti:
Sarv Samaj Sangharsh Samiti-Haryana, Hans do India, Republic Thought and Action Group, PUDR, Women against Sexual Violence & State Repression, National Dalit Women Movement, Dalit Dehat Bahujan Mahapanchayat, Youth for Social Justice-DU, All India Backward Students’ Forum-JNU, Democratic Students Union-JNU, Women for Water Democracy, NCDHR, Bigul Mazdoor Dasta, Ambedkar Seva Dal, National Confederation of Delit Organizations. All India Federation of Trade Unions, Nojaat Bharat Sabha, HRLN, Dhanak Sabha-Delhi, Delhi Students’ Union, Ambedkar Mahasabha, Sahitya Samvaad, United Dalit Students Forum, Avaam, Bharat Ka Manaviyekaran Abhiyaan, Dalit Utthan Samaj, Kabeer Jan Kalyaan Sangh, Haryana Kumhaar Mahasabha, National Movement for Land, Labour & Justice, Bhoomiheen Kisan Sangharsh Samiti.