Monday, May 03, 2004

Dalit beaten over water near Pune

Imtiaz Jalil

Monday, May 3, 2004 (Pune):

When a Dalit man demanded equal distribution of water among all villagers he was thrashed by upper caste Hindus in a drought- hit village near Pune.

Thirty-five-year-old Bhagwan Mahadeo Lad was beaten up by a group of seven upper caste men.

"When I told them that even Dalits have the right to draw water from the gram panchayat tank, they got angry and thrashed me. They claimed the water was not meant for lower castes," said Lad.

No breakthrough yet

Like many drought-hit villages in western Maharashtra, Nimone is dependent on water tankers for their daily supply. But the 100-odd Dalits in the area have to walk a kilometre to draw water from a well.

Although an FIR has been lodged, no arrests have been made so far as all the accused are absconding. An officer of the rank of DSP is investigating the matter, but the frightened Dalits are not sure whether justice will be done.

"They kept me in the police van when my uncle was being beaten up. They did not do anything," said Lad.

"We are frightened, they beat him up mercilessly and can do anything to us as well," said Kalubai Lad.

Ugly spectre

Caste clashes over water have become common in Maharashtra. During the past few months many such incidents have taken place in the Marathwada region.

Just a few months back, in Jalna district, a Dalit youth was reportedly burnt alive by upper caste Hindus over a water dispute.

The war for water may have begun in the state due to drought, but it is the caste twist that is making it uglier.

And when such incidents take place in a progressive state like Maharashtra, the question that needs to be answered is: are we really moving forward or backwards.

Source: NDTV, May 3, 2004

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