Jats crush 3 dalits under tractors in Rajasthan
Heavy police force was deployed at Dangawas, around 250 km from Jaipur, to enable the funeral rites of those killed but no arrest was made despite some horrific crimes committed against dalit women, including their molestation, beating, and repeated attempts to disrobe them. (Representative photo)
AJMER/ JAIPUR: Hundreds of dalits from Nagaur district‘s Dangawas and surrounding villages fled for their lives on Friday after the region’s dominant upper caste, the jats, mowed down three dalits under tractors, and grievously wounded a dozen others following the flaring up of a decades’ old land dispute. The jat violence followed firing by dalits in which one dominant caste member was killed on Thursday.

Heavy police force was deployed at Dangawas, around 250 km from Jaipur, to enable the funeral rites of those killed but no arrest was made despite some horrific crimes committed against dalit women, including their molestation, beating, and repeated attempts to disrobe them. Many of them are battling crippling injuries in different hospitals.

The dispute relates to a 20ha farm land claimed by dalit families of Ratnaram Meghwal, Gutaram Meghwal and Khemaram Meghwal, but disputed by the family of Chimnaram Jat. The row has been pending in court for years.

Matters reached a head on Thursday when Dangawas’s jats held a panchayat and summoned the Meghwals. The dalit families, fearing that the jats were assembling to attack them, fired shots at the two men sent to call them.

One Rampal died on spot. The crowd at jat panchayat then went berserk, attacking the Meghwals, bulldozing their houses, assaulting their women and chasing the fleeing men on tractors. Ratnaram Meghwal (65), Pancharam (60) and Pokaram (45) were crushed to death while 14 others, including six women, were injured.

On Friday, hundreds of armed attackers reached the hospital at Merta City and surrounded it to prevent doctors from treating the injured Dalits. Police force from half-a-dozen police stations had to be called to ensure medical treatment to the injured, some of whom were later taken to Ajmer.

Dangawas’s six Dalit women being treated in Ajmer’s JLN hospital alleged that the attackers molested them. Some of them suffered multiple fractures in hands and legs. A 25-year-old woman wept in the hospital speaking about how the attackers tore off her blouse and tried to strip her on the disputed f land. She got 15 stitches on her head. “They tried to rape me and abused me,” the woman said.

Another woman said, “Four attackers tried to remove my ‘ghaghra’ (skirt) and tried to thrust a stick inside.”

A third woman said, “They pulled me by my hair for about 50 metres, tore off my clothes and hit my legs with iron-rods.” A DSP with a police team is now deployed to secure the injured Dalits women.

Kishan Meghwal, the brother of one of the injured women, said, “We identified 13 among the 200 attackers, but the police hasn’t acted so far.” He added, “We’ve been suffering Jat atrocities for decades.”

Meghwals are in a minority in Dangawas. P L Mimroth, chief functionary of Jaipur-based Centre for Dalit Rights, demanded police security for the dalits in and around Dangawas. A fact finding team of the CDR would reach Dangawas on Saturday.

“The government must ensure medical treatment of the injured and arrest the accused immediately, booking them under the SC/ST Act. Law and order in the region has completely failed,” Mimroth told TOI.

He expressed surprise at absence of condemnation by the state government of the attack on dalits. “The government should compensate the victims who were abiding by court orders on the disputed land,” Mimroth said.

SP Nagaur, HGR Suhasaa, however, denied that it was Dalit versus upper castes violence.

“The accused include Meghwals as well, and not just Jats. The village has a population of around 15,000 including 2,000 dalits. Complaints have been lodged by the two disputing parties and in both the FIRs, the accused include Meghwals,” Suhasaa told TOI.

He said there was no fear among the Dangawas dalits. He said the land dispute was pending since 1964. “We have detained some people and will arrest the accused soon,” the SP said.