NAINITAL: Large parts ofUttarakhand erupted in protests by Dalits after an upper caste teacher of a government school in Bageshwar, Kumaon hills, allegedly slit the throat of a Dalit man who entered a flour mill and was accused of “defiling” it.
Police sources said that a verbal spat ensued between the teacher, Lalit Karnatak, and Sohan Ram soon after the latter entered the flour mill. Enraged that Ram, a Dalit, protested the slur, Karnatak, police said, whipped out a blade a ran it through the poor man’s throat.
Sukhveer Singh, Bageshwar superintendent of police, said, “The main accused, his father and brother were arrested on Thursday and produced before the chief judicial magistrate’s court on Friday. They have been sent to Almora jail and will be in judicial custody for 14 days.”
The three accused have been booked under IPC sections 302 (murder) and 506 (criminal intimidation), and also charged under relevant sections of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
According to Kundan Singh Bhandari, the owner of the flour mill who is also an eyewitness in the case, Ram, 35, a resident of Karadiya village in Bageshwar district, had visited the mill to collect a sack of wheat that he had given to be ground. Karnatak, an assistant teacher in a government school in the same village, reached the shop at the same time and started hurling abuses at Ram for “touching the flour and thereby rendering it impure”.
Bhandari said he tried to pacify the accused but the “enraged” teacher attacked the Dalit man with a sickle pushing it deep into his neck. According to cops, the victim fell on the ground and died on the spot. The flour mill owner also told police that the father and the brother of the accused threatened the deceased’s wailing family members if they went to the cops with their complaint.
Keshav Ram, the victim’s uncle who later lodged the FIR, told TOI , “Both Dalits and upper caste people in the village have been using the mill. However, in view of the ongoing Navratri festival, upper caste members had issued a diktat to Dalit families threatening them not to use the mill, and if necessary, only after flour had been prepared as offering for the deities.”