Monday, October 28, 2002

Mobs dispense vigilante justice in Haryana

Sutapa Deb

Monday, October 28, 2002 (Jhajjar):

When Rajpal, a youth from a Dalit family eloped with Sushila, a Jat girl from Talaaav village in July, it unleashed the fury of a mob that wanted 'avenge' the insult.

Rajpal's house in the center of the village today lies vandalized, a monument to a criminal collective rage that seeks legitimacy from its numbers and a medieval instinct of honour.

Three months have elapsed, but no one from Rajpal's family has been able to return. Two educated Dalit youth, who spoke out against the terror tactics used against their community, were publicly humiliated in the village.

One of them, Sundar, who works in the court at Jhajjar, says that after the elopement, Dalits in his village were targeted by the majority Jat community. A number of them were forced to flee.

"Only people from the Scheduled Caste category were rounded up by the police. The message that went out to the village was that all those who belonged to the Chamar caste had a hand in the elopement," said Sundar.

Sundar went to the police and the press with an application signed by 12 Dalits, alleging that they faced threats to to their life from the Jats in the village.

Mysterious deaths

One of the applicants was Poonam, a common friend of the lovers who eloped, is a particularly vulnerable target. Unable to bear the pressure from the Jats, she committed suicide.

"I wasn't there. I had gone to cut grass, so I don't know whether the Jats scared her. But she must have got scared because the police would come daily and question her," said Poonam's mother-in-law.

Yet the police took no notice of either the application or the circumstances leading to Poonam's death. More deaths followed with the return of the lovers.

While the Dalit boy, Rajpal, was arrested, the Jat girl he had married and her sister both died hours after they returned to their parental home.

Another Dalit man, Hari Singh, committed suicide. Behind the trail of death and destruction, there were signs that the Jats were meting out their own version of justice.

Police inaction

The police claim to be unaware that Rajpal's family has been punished for the elopement.

"If they want to come back, they can come to me any time. I'll place a guard there. I'll take action (against those who vandalised the house) also, if they come to me," said Muhammed Akil, Jhajjar's Superintendent of Police.

As the administration remains inactive, vigilante justice by groups who are powerful because of their caste and community, appears to have become the law of the land.

Source: NDTV, October 28, 2002

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