Monday, October 21, 2002

Dalits blame saffron surge, set 15-day deadline for Govt action

SUMANT BHATTACHARYA & MUKESH BHARADWAJ

BADSHAHPUR\CHANDIGARH, OCT 20: One message emerged loud and clear from a mahapanchayat held today to protest the lynching of five Dalits in Jhajjar district last week: the increased activities of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal were increasing tensions in the area. With not a single arrest being made almost a week after the lynching, the mahapanchayat gave the Government 15 days to take action, failing which another mahapanchayat would be held.

Representatives and sarpanchs of 36 castes and 100 villages took part in the mahapanchayat in Badshahpur village. Four of the five victims-Dayachand, Virender, Raju and Totaram-were from this area while Kailash belonged to Karnal.

Speaker after speaker voiced the view that the lynching was directly connected to the increased activities of the VHP and Bajrang Dal in the region. The organiser, Ranjeet Singh Yadav, sought a compensation of Rs 10 lakh for each of the families of the victims, action against the police officers under Section 302 of the CRPC, government jobs for one member of each of the families of the deceased, and the retraction of the charge of cow slaughter against the five victims registered in Dulina police station. Sohna MLA Rao Dharam Pal, advocate Khazan Singh and Captain Shamsher Singh of Lok Jan Shakti were among those who said the VHP and Bajrang Dal have been trying to raise the issue of cow slaughter for the past few years, leading to increasing tension. ''That's why a rumour ignited the whole incident,'' Janata Dal leader Ved Prakash Vidrohi added.

Strangely, despite visits by several senior leaders-Congress President Sonia Gandhi, accompanied by former Haryana chief minister Bhajan Lal, visited the victims' families today-Om Prakash Chautala has stayed away. While the Haryana CM was in Jhajjar district today, addressing rallies, inaugurating projects and attending the 'Sarkar Ap Ke Dwar' programme, he stayed clear of Dulina. However, Chautala did say that ''stringent punishment'' would be given to those involved in the lynching. ''Nobody will be allowed to disturb communal amity and peace in the state and those found guilty for heinous crimes will be dealt with sternly,'' he said, after inaugurating two water supply schemes. Mohinder Kumar, Deputy Commissioner of Jhajjar, confirmed that Chautala hasn't visited the lynching site. ''The site is only a police chowki. What is there to visit?'' he asked. ''The CM was in Jhajjar today, but to inaugurate two water supply projects. His schedule didn't include a visit to the site. He may decide to add it to his itinerary. People can also come to meet him at the resthouse in Jhajjar,'' Rishi Raj, his senior secretary, added.

Source: Indian Express, October 21, 2002

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