Sunday, September 21, 2003

Dalits still live in fear at Anand village

BHITASI, Anand: A month after a Dalit, Raman Vanker, died after receiving a severe beating from some Darbars, fear is still lurking in the Dalit households here. They say Suresh Bhoi, Bhikha Chiman Raj, Mahendrasinh Raj and Asha Rama Bhoi allegedly beat up Raman on July 25. The victim succumbed to injuries on August 8.

The events took a new turn when Raman's family embraced Buddhism last week. But that has only compounded their woes. Raman's sister Vimla says, "We feel virtually cut off from the village. Even our livelihood is threatened. We used to work in farms owned by upper castes. But after we complained against them we are not called for work."

Raman's family also claims that the police are too soft on the accused. "They are not arresting the accused though the case is clear. We are not given details of the forensic report. They call us any time and then say that full report has not been prepared. Of course, we know that the police have indeed discussed the report findings with the accused," says Vimla.

"We do not know about tomorrow, if SRP protection is removed then they will burn down our houses," adds Kusum, her sister-in-law. But the police say the threat perception of Dalits is unnecessary.

In-charge investigating officer Sayed says, "We cannot arrest anyone till the cause of death is known. I have informed them of the FSL report but they want the full report. It can be given only after one of the panel doctors comes back from leave."

Anand DSP Narasimha Komar says, "We are not going to remove the SRP protection. Also we had started peace efforts by holding meetings between both the groups. The FSL report rules out any poisoning or signs of beating. One of the doctors on the panel is on leave and once he arrives things will be clear."

Most of the villagers are tight-lipped on the cause of Raman's murder. Some who do speak make contradictory statements. "They have unnecessarily turned their personal fight into a Dalit-Darbar issue," says one resident.

Source: The Times of India, September 21, 2003

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