Shabbirpur village (West UP)
The first wedding took place three weeks ago; the second will be solemnised on Friday. And yet, in different ways, everybody involved in these two Dalit weddings has been scarred by the May 5 inter-caste violence, a permanent black mark for this Thakur-majority village in west UP, that has since spilled to other parts of Saharanpur district.First, the story of the wedding that’s yet to happen: it’s actually two weddings rolled in one. Daily wager Faqirchand’s two daughters, Preeti and Manisha, are getting married the same day. But anxiety, not elation, is the primary feeling of the the two brides-to-be. “Dar lagta hai kahin phir se jhagda na ho aur nuksan jo jaye (I worry that there might be another quarrel and more loss),“ says Preeti, 22, who stopped going to school after Class VIII.

Dozens of Dalit homes were torched and their belongings destroyed after simmering tension between Dalits and Thakurs spiralled out of control. A Thakur from a nearby village died in the violence. Nonetheless, wedding preparations have begun at Faqirchand’s home.There are no signs of merriment, though. The halwai’s huge cauldrons have arrived.Among the items rented are 30 chairs and a flashy gold colour sofa partly shaped like a throne. The glitzy sofa, kept in Faqirchand’s brother’s house a stone’s throw away, looks like a piece out of Dali’s surreal artwork.

Especially since everything else in the room–furniture, clothes, other items-are burnt black.

The story of the earlier wedding is even more tragic.Close to Faqirchand lives Dal Singh, another Dalit daily wager, with his family . On May 4, less than 24 hours before Shabbirpur’s darkest day , his brother’s son had been married. A number of guests were yet to leave when the attack took place. “I kept pleading with them to spare us but they were relentless,“ says his wife Kamla. The sutures below her right eye are still visible.

By the time the marauders–some armed with swords, according to eye witnesses–left, the house was history . The roof made of iron, wood and mud was brought crashing down and torched. Even the iron beams were twisted by the heat.Singh and his two sons, as well as many Dalits in this village, work as daily wagers and earn about Rs 250-300 per day. Over the years, Singh’s family had saved some money and bought items of comfort. When the two sons were married, wedding gifts added to their list of possessions.

The Singhs had a fan, a cooler, an almirah and two colour TVs among other comforts. “This happens whenever a poor person climbs up the ladder. The rich bring him down,“ says Singh. He is angry , not philosophical.