It was the 12th of April. There were ten days to go for the elections in Davanagere, Karnataka and merely two days to go for the birth anniversary of Dr B.R. Ambedkar. In Santhebennur town, poet and teacher Huchangi Prasad and other youngsters were making plans to remember the man whose writings had inspired them and given them the courage to continue to fight against caste discrimination.
Suddenly a group of boys ran into the colony, relieved to be home and safe. This is what they had escaped: one of them, a 17-year-old boy called Abhishek, was attacked by men of the Uppara caste (an OBC caste) for swimming in the Bhadra river. The river, they claimed, is only for upper-caste men. The boy and his friends were mocked with casteist slurs; then a man identified as Srinivas beat up Abhishek and his friends. More was to come. A mob of about 200 men attacked the Dalit colony in Santhebennur.
Prasad, 27, was at home when he heard a commotion outside. He heard women crying and begging for help. Once he came to know what had happened, he rushed to the spot and confronted the Uppara men. They responded by beating him up. Prasad had to be hospitalized with head and back injuries. He suffered from pain in the kidney area; his finger was fractured. He identifies his attackers as Maruti and Kiran (both around 24 years old).
Two hours later, the boy Abhishek was attacked again by the Uppara men near a petrol pump. In fact, he was beaten up on as many as three occasions. Prasad narrated the third incident: “Abhishek went to buy provisions around 2 pm. About 8 people grabbed him and beat him brutally on his head and back. I called the police to control the situation and provide safety for the boys. But a false case was registered against Abhishek for ‘assaulting’ the dominant-caste men.”
The same day, around 150-200 men of the Uppara community descended on the Dalit colony and beat up everyone in sight with sticks, stones, and bicycle chains. This was retaliation for going to the police.
Prasad says: “Six-year-old Ajay was beaten with a bicycle chain. Then the men entered his house, threw out all the ration, all the plates, all their belongings. They beat up his father, 28-year-old Ramesh. They stripped the women – including Nanjamma, Netravati, Vannamma and Rathnamma – and beat them.”
The community is traumatized. Some of them have left the Santhebennur town fearing more attacks. The police have registered cases against 12 Dalits and 51 Upparas, including under the stringent SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
So far, only eight people from the Uppara caste have been arrested. Prasad says they will hold protests if more arrests are not forthcoming in the next few days. He has received support from Dalit Sangarsha Samiti (DSS) and Left groups in the region.
Huchangi Prasad was attacked in 2011 by right-wing goons for daring to write about caste. They had then threatened to break his fingers if he “attacked Hinduism” again. Today, he has a fractured finger for standing up for a Dalit boy who was beaten up for swimming in the Bhadra River.
This story originally appeared in Newsclick.in
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