Saturday, March 06, 2004

Caste violence grips Maharashtra village

Saturday, March 6, 2004 (Mumbai):

On Thursday, a group of Marathas attacked 80 Dalit homes in Shinde village in Maharashtra, 150 kilometres from Mumbai.

22 Dalits, including children were badly hurt in the attack.

The Dalits in the area have traditionally owned small plots of land and their own cattle and haven't ever had to depend on the rich Maratha farmers for their livelihood.

Caste war

And that's the big reason why the Marathas have repeatedly attacked Dalits and have tried to throw them out of the village.

Ironically, the latest round of violence comes just when a compromise had almost been worked out. It was even going to be signed by village elders on March 4. But the Marathas say a prominent Dalit leader, Meera Ambedkar put a spanner in the works.

"Meera Ambedkar refused to allow the compromise to go through. She insisted that we first arrest the Marathas under the Atrocities against Minorities Act and the Marathas fearing they may be prosecuted under a false case, resorted to violence," said RM Katke, Additional Superintendent of Police of Ahmednagar.

Fear of reprisals

In fact, it was the local police who first tried to broker peace between the two communities. But now they too have got caught in the caste-wars.

7 police officers were injured when a group of Dalits turned violent outside the local police station.

"They attacked the police station. The ACP tried to control the situation, but we had to fire 6 rounds in the air to disperse the mob," added Additional SP Katke.

There is fear of reprisals in the Maratha areas of the village as well. Doors are shut and everyone is staying indoors. Now the police fear that things could get worse as caste politics takes centrestage ahead of the elections.

Source: NDTV, March 6, 2004


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