Prahlad Meghwal, a Dalit lawyer, had shared on a WhatsApp group a news piece regarding discrimination against Dalits during the recent floods in Kerala. Branding the report as false and designed to spread animosity in society, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) office-bearer filed a complaint against Meghwal at the Chhoti Sadri police station in Pratapgarh district, Rajasthan, demanding action against him. A crowd of around 400-500 people, led by the BJP office-bearer, a Brahmin, reached the police station on 6 September – the day the upper castes had called for a Bharat bhandh. They demanded immediate arrest of Meghwal.
When Meghwal came to know of it, fearing that he may be lynched, he moved to a place 70-80 km away and sent his children to his in-laws’ place. Then, Meghwal contacted FORWARD Press to verify the truth of the news story. FORWARD Press supplied him with all facts related to the story and also published another news story of the situation facing Meghwal under the title In Rajasthan, a police complaint filed over the sharing of a Forward Press report so that nothing unwarranted happened to Meghwal, who is physically challenged. This led to an outpouring of support from many Dalit organizations, about which Forward Press published yet another story.
- Report about Brahmins practising untouchability in Kerala flood relief camp angers Brahmins in Rajasthan
- Around five hundred Brahmins reach police station
- Court says Prahlad Meghwal is innocent
- Prahlad is still worried about anti-social elements in the Brahmin community
After FORWARD Press published this report and contacted the Superintendent of Police, Pratapgarh, the SHO of the police station, the administration was forced to act and Meghwal was presented in the court of the sub-divisional magistrate (SDM), which said that he was innocent. The court also said that if anything untoward happened to Meghwal, strict action would be taken against the people and organizations involved. Invoking sections 107 and 151 of the CrPC, the SDM asked Meghwal to exercise caution while sharing these kinds of stories. He was asked not to share any report or comment in social media that hurt the sentiments of any caste or community.
Meghwal says, “If FORWARD Press had not raised the issue at the right time, I would have been behind bars by now. It was due to the news published by FORWARD Press that the police came under pressure.”
The police, at the behest of the government, was about to book Meghwal under section 295A of the IPC for outraging religious sentiments. But after FORWARD Press reported twice on Meghwal’s predicament, the police had to admit that he had shared a true story about an incident that was also covered by other media groups. Later, he also provided the Rajasthan Police with the FIR number registered by the Kerala Police against practising untouchability.
Still, the Brahmin community continued to insist that its religious sentiments had been hurt. Their absurd argument was: “What was the need to share the news of what happened in distant Kerala on a WhatsApp group in Rajasthan’s Chhoti Sadri?”
Meghwal is still terrorized. He says, “I am yet to return to home. I want to assess the situation there. Once I am sure that things have cooled down, I will return to Chhoti Sadri and call my wife and children back. I still worry that the Brahman Sabha may target them. They have not threatened me in any way after filing the complaint but I cannot trust the Brahmin office-bearer of the ruling party. Drunk on power, they can anything to me. I am presently living with my father at the place where he works”.
Translation: Amrish Herdenia; copy-editing: Anil
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