Friday, December 13, 2002

Martyr's memorial incomplete: Caste gets in the way

Ravish Kumar

Friday, December 13, 2002 (Sonepat):

The attack on parliament on December 13 last year was foiled by a small group of dedicated and quick thinking security personnel. Five of them were killed in the gunfight with militants.

Assistant sub-inspector Nanak Chand was among those who lost their lives. While the nation honoured him with a Kirti Chakra, a panchayat in Haryana has denied his wife the right to construct a memorial.

Martyr Dalit

All because Nanak Chand was a Dalit, his memorial is still incomplete in Sonepat's Rathdhana village.

A landless Dalit, she approached the panchayat for land but the dominant Jat community members in the panchayat opposed her.

After much pleading, she was given a small piece of land measuring 22 feet.

Unable to build a memorial on it, she appealed to the administration for a larger plot but again the Jat members intervened saying a Dalit could not be a martyr.

"They say Dalits cannot be brave. Bravado is only for the upper castes. The government has given us money but what will we do if we are not allowed to build a memorial with it?" says Ganga Devi.

Caste politics

But villagers say that since Ganga Devi has already received compensation from the government she is not entitled to get any land from the panchayat.

"The differences arose when she demanded more land. The panchayat is not willing to give any more land," says Mange Ram, who is a Jat.

After the Parliament attack, all political leaders had said that all those who sacrificed their lives to protect the very symbol of Indian democracy were martyrs. But in Sonepat's Rathdhana village, martyrdom is decided on the basis of caste.

Source: NDTV, December 13, 2002

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