Tuesday, October 24, 2000

Row over fishing rights results in acid attack on Dalits

AMIT SHARMA

LUCKNOW, OCTOBER 23: The seven-bed burns ward at the Shyama Prasada Mukherjee Civil Hospital in Lucknow is full. On one bed lies Sanjay, 17, the eldest of Natha's four children. He has lost both his eyes and suffered severe burns. ``Sanjay was my ambition. Now, the future of my family is in dark,'' says Natha.

Four others -- all Dalits -- in adjoining beds are listening, as Natha gives a blood-curdling account of caste violence in Bilampur village in Barabanki district, 20 km from the state capital.

Sanjay and others were beaten with sticks, sickles and spears, allegedly by Thakurs of nearby Haohari village, on October 20 night. Acid was thrown on them. Two people lost their eyesight while two others suffered burns. ``They took us hostage and after beating us up threw acid on our faces. The lucky ones could save their eyes but all of us sustained burns,'' said Ram Lakhan, another victim.

They allege that the local police did not come to their help. They even refused to lodge an FIR and later referred them to the local Primary Health Centre where except Kamlesh, who had lost both his eyes, all others were released after first aid. ``If they had provided immediate medical assistance my son would have not lost his eyesight,'' says Natha.

The victims were sent to the civil hospital in Lucknow only after two days. By then the acid had done the damage.

The incident is said to be the fallout of a dispute between Thakurs and Dalits over fishing rights at the local Mataila lake. ``The lake is not the private property of any community, but Thakurs are powerful so they settled scores with us. Neither the police nor the government is pursuing our case,'' alleges Bhika Prasad, father of Ram Lakhan, one of the victims.

The Thakurs had reportedly issued a warning that they would not allow fishing in the lake. The younger lot of Dalits didn't take it seriously and laid a trap to net fish on October 20. Minutes later, the villagers allege, members of Thakur community arrived with sticks. ``We were beaten ruthlessly and could not do anything in our defence because they were armed and more in numbers. After beating us up they said they would force us to drink acid but later poured the liquid on us from two plastic containers which they had brought with them,'' said Maniram, 30, another victim.

They alleged that the police lodged an FIR only after the villagers put pressure on them. ``Three persons have been arrested so far against seven named in the FIR. We hope to arrest the rest soon,'' said Chandrika Rai, SP Barabanki.

Source: The Indian Express, October 24, 2000

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

<< Home