Wednesday, August 14, 2002

Dalit killed over land re-distribution in MP

Sandeep Bhushan

Wednesday, August 14, 2002 (Lataheri, Rajgarh):

The tension between dalits and upper-caste villagers in Rajgarh, Madhya Pradesh has taken a violent turn after the state government announced its decision to allot vacant plots to the landless Scheduled Caste and Tribes.

Traditionally the upper castes have grazed their cattle on the vacant plots and are now refusing to surrender what they claim is their right over common land. In Rajgarh district alone 21 cases relating to land redistribution have been filed against 443 people in the last two days.

And evidence indicates that the upper caste villagers have unleashed a reign of terror and death. For instance 45-year-old Ghisalal Jatav of Lataheri village was killed brutally by alleged upper caste farmers.

The upper caste men had apparently let loose their cattle on the first jowar crop on the common land. When the dalits resisted, they were brutally beaten up.

Ghisalal's wife Leelabai, who is five months pregnant, recounts the events with horror. "They killed him in the fields. They used guns and long knives," says Leela.

"The uppercaste men kept saying: 'We will not let them keep this land. We will not let them eat from this and will drive the harijans away'," recounts another dalit villager, Seetabai.

Four people have been arrested for the murder of Ghisalal Jatav and a police picket has now been placed in the village, but the dalits here say they are still insecure.

"Even today those people are trying to scare us," say the dalit villagers.

Meanwhile, the state government has said it will appeal against the High court stay order and press ahead with the land redistribution programme.

Source: NDTV, August 14, 2002

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