Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Urine-drink slur in Punjab caste spat

GAJINDER SINGH

Chandigarh: A village in Punjab appears headed towards caste conflict barely 19 months after a Jat refusal to let Dalits use a gurdwara in Talhan near Jalandhar sparked widespread violence.

The spark has been provided this time by a spat between two students on a cricket field that prompted the family of an upper caste pupil to allegedly beat up relatives of his Dalit schoolmate, force them to drink urine and get police to imprison them.

Three Rai (Dalit) youths — Gurbux, 20, 16-year-old Bittu and Piara, 12 — today alleged that an upper caste Jakhar (Jat) family of Fazilka’s Patrewal village beat them up, abducted them from near a bus stand, forced urine down their throat and had them imprisoned.

Their only offence was that they are brothers-in-law of Kulwant, the uncle of Nanak, whose November 22 spat with Amarjit Singh has sparked the current crisis.

"We had gone there for some work concerning land on November 27 when we were surrounded by some men, including Gurdeep Singh, the father of the boy Amarjit with whom Nanak had a tiff. We were beaten up and taken to the residence of the sarpanch, Gurdas, where we were first forced to consume alcohol which none of us had ever touched before and stripped. Then they urinated in their shoes and made us drink it too as punishment for Nanak’s decision to quarrel with an upper caste boy," Bittu said, crying.

The youths' nightmare did not end there. The police came along, caned them and threw them behind bars for eight days. Kulwant and Nanak’s father Jagir were jailed for 11 days,

Gurbux, Bittu and Piara were also told dacoity charges would be slapped on them if they did not apologise to Gurdeep.

"We were abused and continue to get threats. We do not know what the SHO has done with the papers he made us sign on December 15 when he asked us to compromise and forget the matter," Jagir said.

Kulwant said no case has been registered against Gurdeep yet despite repeated requests to senior police officers at Ferozepur. "The police is not doing anything because we happen to be weak. They are only listening to the upper castes and adhering to their dictates," he added.

Nanak's father demanded that a case be registered against Gurdeep and the sarpanch and SHO get the sack. He added that they would approach the Punjab State Human Rights Commission for justice. "We are also human. We too want to live with dignity. We are being held guilty when we are not at fault," Kulwant said.

State BJP general secretary Vijay Sambla, who accompanied the villagers from Patrewal, said the National Scheduled Caste Commission would be approached. "This is a blot for all Indians. There has been no police action till date against those who are perpetrators of the crime because they happen to belong to the upper caste," he said.

Asked why they had kept quiet for over a month, Jagir said they had expected justice at the village level. "But we find there is no one to help us."

Dalits make up 30 per cent of the state's 2.4 crore population.

Source: The Telegraph, January 04, 2005

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