Amid the din of the Gujarat Dalit movement, are you forgetting the horrific torture of Mirchpur, Haryana? The wounds of atrocities against Dalits do not heal so soon. Seven years have elapsed but nothing has changed in Mirchpur. For the last seven years, more than a hundred families of the Valmiki community of Mirchpur have been living away from their homes – in tents in a farm in Hisar, about 60km from the village. They are leading the life of refugees. The barbaric violence and terror unleashed by the Jats on them has instilled such fear in their hearts that even the name of Mirchpur sends shivers down their spines. They are not even in a state to think about a possible return to their ancestral village. Why is the Valmiki community of Mirchpur silent? Why, unlike in Gujarat, things are not changing in Mirchpur? One major reason is the brahmanical-elitist character of the politics of Haryana. Political parties feel that their interests will be secure if Dalits continue to be exploited. This is true of the Bahujanvadi politics also. Haryana is dominated by the Jats. This community dominates both the politics and society of the state. Right from Bansilal to Bhajanlal to Chautala to Hooda to Khattar – no chief minister of the state can ever gather the courage to utter a word of protest against the diktats of the Khaps. The political parties may have welfare schemes for the Dalits, they may be overflowing with sympathy for them but welfare schemes and sympathy cannot bring about any revolutionary change in the socio-economic condition of Dalits. Yes, welfare schemes can serve an immediate purpose. They can enable the Dalits to lead a decent life, even if on the lowest rung of the social ladder. But even this is not acceptable to the brahmanical (Jatvadi) politics of Haryana.
Ramesh Valmiki, one of the Mirchpur Valmikis living in the farm, was sounding miserable on the phone. “The conditions are very bad here. Sahib, please do something. We don’t want to go to Mirchpur. The Jats will drive us away. Whether it is Hooda or Khattar, no one will do anything.” Ramesh has no faith in the Government of Haryana. According to him, the government is not willing to build a separate settlement for them. The government stands before the Khap Panchayat of Jats with their heads bowed. If the powers that be in Haryana are not ready to do anything to provide a place to live in and a source of livelihood to the Valmikis, nothing except the politics of votes is behind it. It is an established fact that for the rulers, the interests of the dominant class are of paramount importance. The government cannot go against the Jats. That is why nothing is being done for the rehabilitation of the Valmikis.
Vedpal Tanwar owns the farm where more than 80 Valmiki families have taken shelter for the last seven years, “The Khap Panchayat of Jats has ostracized the members of the Valmiki community. The Valmikis were dependent on the Jats for their livelihood. But after the horrific happenings of 21 April 2010, they cannot even go back to their village because of the terror of the Jats.” The Jats will not hire them as farmhands. In this situation, it is the duty of the Haryana government to allot land around Hisar to these landless families so that they can grow crops for a living. But the government only listens to the Jats. The Haryana government has told the Supreme Court in an affidavit that in the last 7 years, it has spent Rs190 million on the rehabilitation of the Valmikis. But this is half the truth. More than Rs150 million from this amount has been spent on the CRPF and state police personnel deployed in the village to prevent any further violence against the Valmikis. The Valmikis have not received a penny. Yes, their houses that were burnt down have been rebuilt, but who wants to live in them?
What had happened in Mirchpur?
Can a verbal duel over the barking of a dog lead to an attack on an entire settlement and to the burning down of all the houses there? This was what had happened in Mirchpur. Drunk with power and secure in the belief that the police and the administration will side with them, the Jats behaved worse than animals. They burnt down more than 20 houses of Valmikis. They were so blinded by hatred that they burnt an 18-year-old differently-abled girl Suman and her 70-year-old father Tarachand alive by setting their house afire. The houses to be burnt down first were of the Valmikis who were relatively better off. Well-known Dalit thinker H.L. Dusadh rightly points out: “Savarnas start becoming jealous if the income of Dalits increases. They can’t tolerate prosperous Dalits.” The pet dog of a Valmiki family barked at the Jat youths and they retaliated with a naked display of barbarity. After this incident, more than 150 Valmiki families migrated from the village. That created a sensation all the way from Haryana to Delhi. A Rohini (Delhi) court heard the case and held 15 of the 97 accused guilty. Three were sentenced to life imprisonment while five and seven were awarded imprisonment for five and two years respectively.
Politics stands for status quo in caste and religion
Migration of Dalits is nothing new. This is an incurable disease – just like the Hindu religion – and has been continuing uninterrupted from the Vedic age to the modern era. The Dalits and other weaker sections are supposed to live on the mercy of the savarnas. If any of them tries to progress or prosper, or slips up in expressing his gratitude, he is penalized. And this often translates into atrocities against the entire community. Politics – whether elitist or Bahujanvadi – uses the rise of Dalit consciousness only for grabbing power. Whether it is the Congress or the BJP or Mayawati’s BSP, all stop worrying about the socio-economic progress of the Dalits as soon as they get power. Once in power, all political parties become status quoist. They do not want any change in the politics of caste or religion. It was the Congress that began the politics of caste and religion and now, it has become the need of all political parties. What Indira Gandhi sown, the BJP of Advani-Modi is reaping. There is no difference between the communalism of Indira Gandhi, the anti-Mandal attitude of Advani, and Modi’s opportunistic love for Mandal. In this situation, whether it is Haryana or Gujarat, the Dalits can hardly hope for justice. The BJP’s Dalit MPs know this truth very well. That is why they never ever utter a word against the brahmanical character of the party and the RSS.
But change is in the air
After staying patient and bearing the pain in silence for long, the Dalits and lower sections are losing their faith in the system. The status quoists are no longer acceptable to them. They seem to have concluded that they will have to take care of themselves. Gujarat’s Dalit protests point in that direction. This is the right approach. Instead of endlessly waiting for the state and the political parties to come their rescue, the Dalits should take things into their own hands. This is in keeping with democratic norms, too. Like the Dalits of Gujarat, the Dalits of Mirchpur should also take to the streets. Casteist leaders and MPs will never fight for them. They will have to wage their battle themselves.