Badshahpur, Haryana: Several days after the murder of five Dalits barely 60 kilometre away from the national capital,Dalits of this village are still mourning two of their young men who were brutally done to death on October 15, Dussehra day.
There is an interesting detail here which did not figure in the media reports. It is that these VHP men had told others on their mobile phones that five "Muslims" had been nabbed killing a cow. That means the mob had killed the Dalits
mistaking them for Muslims.
Dayachand (25) and Virendra (23) from this village were lynched along with three others, Kailash (25), Tota Ram (29) and Raju (18). The last three were from other villages.
For a while, the Dalits are tight-lipped before the visiting MG correspondent. However, soon the ice melts and they begin to talk.
Blood stains on the site of the cruel murder
After a few moments, Dayachand’s younger brother Dalchand joins in. With tearful eyes he says, "Duleena ke police ne mere bhai ko maar dala"(Duleena’s police has killed my brother). He adds, "Mere aankhon ke samne ab bhi unka jala aur buri tarah se toota phoota sharir ghoom raha hai" (His burnt and broken body is before my eyes). His pale-looking 65-year old father, Buddh Ram, barely manages to say, "Main aap sabse vinti karta hoon, mujhe mera beta dedo" (It’s my request to you, give me my son). This is one request nobody can do anything about.
Devendra Singh, elder brother of Virendra, initially refuses to talk. He agrees only when he is convinced that the person he is talking to belongs to the press. He also shows the contract paper of skinning dead animals issued in the name of his father, Ratan Singh, and bearing the signature of the executive officer of panchayat samiti, Sohna. Devendra asserts, "None, but the police has killed our men. Our men had refused to pay Rs 20,000 as bribe, so the police beat them to death." The Dalits had always bribed them, but this time altercation began on the quantum of bribe, the villagers said. That triggered police violence, leading to the murder of the Dalits.
Devendra says he had been supplying animal skin to Kailash of Karnal. On the fateful day of October 15, Kailash had come to collect the skins. As usual he had given some advance to Devendra and the rest was to be paid at Karnal. Dayachand and Virendra were going to Karnal to get the money.
Burnt and mutilated body of Virendra Singh (from photographs shown by the victim’s father Ratan Singh)
They were intercepted and killed with three others at Duleena police post in Jhajjar district, 60 km away. Ratan Singh (60), father of Virendra, shows the photo of his 23-year old son. The picture is a horrid mass of burnt, disfigured flesh and broken bones.
Nearly six kilometre from Badshahpur is Akleempur, village of Tota Ram (29), driver of the Tata 407, number HR26D9030, in which the Dalits were travelling. It is relatively small in size and population. Sant Ram, nephew of Tota Ram, too feels that it was the police, not the frenzied mob of caste Hindus, who had killed the Dalits. "There were no signs of stone pelting in Duleena police chowki, which could make us believe that a mob was behind the killing," he says. Tota Ram’s wife, Sunil (27), now has to take care of her four children, the eldest being six while the youngest is mere two months old. Unable to grasp the import of what had happened, she wonders aloud: "Mere pati ne kisi ka kya bigada tha" (What wrong had my husband done). Tota Ram was a very hard working man, as per the villagers. He had started to drive that vehicle a month ago. His two-room house was still under construction. Perhaps it would never be completed now.
The third village that shares its grief with Badshahpur and Akleempur is Teekli, where Raju, conductor of the vehicle and nephew of its owner, Karamvir, lived. This village has a population of about 2,000. Raju was ‘merely 18. He looks smart in his photograph shown by Karamvir. His fellow villagers are saddened by his death. His 40-year-old father, Ramfal, is struck speechless for the whole of two hours the MG correspondent is there. Once Ramfal tries to say something, but his voice is trapped in his throat.
All three villages have a mixed population of Hindus of different castes. Only a few Dalits like Devendra Singh are engaged in some business. The rest work as daily-wage labourers.
The scene of lynching
Some 40 kms from Teekli lies Duleena, the spot where the five Dalits were done to death outside a police post as 50 policemen, a city magistrate, a deputy superintendent of police and a handful of other local government officials watched silently.
The police outpost is a three-room affair. The middle room, where the five Dalits were "sheltered" from a murderous mob of caste Hindus shouting, "Gow mata ki jai" (Hail mother cow), baying for the blood of the five "killers" of the sacred "mother cow". The middle room otherwise served as police lock-up to hold offenders before sending them to jail.
On October 21, full six days after the brutal killings, there are tell-tale signs of the crime still present in the form of blood stains on the floor and walls of the lock-up. The police say about 20 people had brought in the five Dalits after beating them badly. Soon after that, those 20, some of whom had mobile phones, began to call others from nearby villages on the phone. Within an hour, about 2,000 people, all cow-worshippers, gathered, a police official says on condition of anonymity.
Receipt for goods bought: This panchayat samiti receipt of Rs. 35,000 shows the Dalits had bought "oxen hide and bones" for that amount.
Only 10 metres away from the blood stains on the lock-up floor and walls, there are more such stains on the road outside. The police say a mob shouting, "Gow mata ki jai" chased the police away and dragged the Dalits out on the road where they were lynched. Two of them were set on fire while still alive.
The sub-inspector, who agrees to talk to the MG on the condition that his identity would not be disclosed, says an anti-cow slaughter programme of the VHP had been going on in the area for the last few days. Those who had brought in the Dalits after torturing them were all VHP men of the area.
There is an interesting detail here which did not figure in the media reports. It is that these VHP men had told others on their mobile phones that five "Muslims" had been nabbed killing a cow. That means the mob had killed the Dalits mistaking them for Muslims. This was indirectly confirmed by Haryana chief minister Om Prakash Chautala, on October 22. He said that the killings were the cases of mistaken identity.
The S-I says, "the mob was not ready to listen to pleas for mercy because they thought the five were Muslims." He told the mob they were Dalits, but nobody was prepared to listen. That means the police would not have tried to dissuade the attackers had they really been Muslims.
Higher police officials are not available for comment as they are busy making security arrangements for the chief minister and governor’s ritual visit to the area.
There is a clear contrast between what the villagers say and what the police claim. The villagers say the police killed their men, while the police say it was a VHP-led mob that did it. Of course, with their connivance.
That the VHP is answerable for the dastardly act is evident from its "victory procession" following the murders to "celebrate" the killings.
Meanwhile in Delhi, VHP senior vice-president Giriraj Kishore told the press on October 18 that his men had not led the mob that lynched the Dalits. However, he quoted Hindu scriptures to point "the life of a cow is more precious than that of a human being."
He said it had to be ascertained whether the cow was killed by the five men or was already dead. Until such time as a report on this was available, nothing could be said. Not even the state government was in a position to say anything, the VHP leader clarified.
However, he shrugged off the enormity of the lynching by asking, "Can anyone discipline a mob?" The drift of his argument was that people were very much within their right to have lynched the Dalits for taking a cow’s life, which "is more precious than a man’s."
Trade in animal skin is perfectly legal (except in the skin of endangered species). Chandigarh High Court decided in “Sattar vs. State of Haryana” case of 1999 (Chandigarh Criminal Cases, Part II, p. 52) that “keeping and possession of skins is no offence.” However, it is normal for policemen to demand bribe even for normal, legal business transactions.
Nobody has been arrested for the crime. In any case, killing a Dalit has not been a big deal as they are rated even below pigs and cattle in the scriptures quoted by the VHP leader above.
The state government, instead of doing anything meaningful, ordered an inquiry. An inquiry report takes months, even years, to be completed. After that the government invariably drops the case.
Meanwhile, politicians indulged in predictable skullduggery. A spokesman of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a sister organistion of VHP, said in New Delhi, they condemned "any kind of killing," thus equating bovine slaughter with manslaughter.
Equivocating, he issued the bland statement, "We hope the Haryana government goes into the depth of the matter." He did not "hope" the culprits were caught and jailed, but that the fact was established whether the cow was killed or was dead already. And forget about the five men.
The two major communist parties — CPI and CPM — said the VHP had incited the mob and taken out a procession to "celebrate" the "achievement" of killing five Dalits who had supposedly killed a cow.
If past record is any indication, the perpetrators of the present crime don’t have much to worry about. As the "Kumher carnage" of a decade ago shows, the law would look the other way if Dalits are killed or their women raped. In that particular case, 17 Dalits were burnt alive by a mob that included government officials. The carnage occurred in Rajasthan, neighbouring Delhi, which has witnessed 15,072 cases of crimes against Dalits and tribals, including an annual average of 46 killings, 143 rapes and 93 cases of grievous injury.
Jeelani Khan in Badshahpur, Akleempur, Teekli and Duleena with inputs from
MG News Desk