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Karnal bridegroom not allowed to mount horseback, Dalits up in arms

Rajeev Khanna | Updated on: 7 March 2017, 18:30 IST
(Arya Sharma/Catch News)

The agitation launched by Dalits from Sagga village in Karnal, Haryana, has once again brought the issue of caste suppression and discrimination to the centrestage. More than 300 Dalit men, women and children camped outside the mini secretariat protesting the atrocities against them while refusing to go back home.

The trigger for the protests this time was once again the alleged refusal of the upper castes, mainly Rajputs, to allow a Dalit bridegroom to have a 'ghurchari' ritual before his wedding last weekend. The ritual involves the bridegroom mounting a horseback and visiting different temples in his village on his way to his wedding.

According to reports, the upper caste residents of Sagga village objected to Sombir, a Dalit youth, having the 'ghurchari' ritual on Friday. They also objected to the Dalit guests at the wedding dancing in a procession to the tunes being played by a DJ. They wanted the Dalits to stop the procession and make the wedding a quiet affair without the 'ghurchari' ritual.

The matter took a turn for the worse when the annoyed Dalits protested against the upper castes' objections. Soon, there was violence, with stones being pelted from both sides. Things only returned to normal with the intervention of the state machinery, but tensions remained.

Thereafter the Dalits, who are a minority in the village, marched up to the district headquarters on Monday and staged protests outside the mini secretariat. They have been demanding the arrest of the accused upper caste residents and security for themselves. They say that since they do not feel secure in going back to the village, they should be rehabilitated elsewhere.

The administration has assured that the accused will be nabbed and adequate security will be provided to the Dalits, but the protests continued on Tuesday. The police have reportedly booked 42 persons in the matter. There is heavy police deployment in the village to prevent any untoward incident.

Not the first time

The practice of upper castes not allowing Dalits to perform the ritual of 'ghurchari' is rampant in several parts of the state. It makes headlines only when there is some violence, but otherwise, this form of oppression against the Dalits in the state goes unreported.

Sandeep, a Dalit resident of Bhusthala village of Kurukshetra district, had undergone a similar experience at the time of his wedding last year, when the upper caste residents of his village objected to his ghurchari. Ironically, a large number of those who tried to stop him from performing the ritual were his playmates from childhood.

He was bold enough to approach the police and have his way, but what followed was a nightmarish experience for him. He was ostracised socially, and till date, he lives in fear. Upper caste residents stopped giving him employment.

“The Rajputs openly say that if the Valmikis and other Dalits are allowed 'ghurchari', it would be a matter of great shame for them. They say that the lower castes do not deserve to ride a horse. Just a few days ago, after I deposed in court in the case pertaining to the atrocities against me, abuses were hurled against me when I went to make some purchases in the village. I had to approach the Sarpanch once again,” he told Catch. His wife is also scared to venture out of the house for employment despite being a post graduate in political science.

He said that for some years after 2007, the upper castes in the area had allowed 'ghurchari' for Dalits, but they always wanted the Dalit elders to seek permission from them. “They have always asserted their supremacy over the Dalits,” he said, while explaining that Dalits in the villages of Haryana do not have land or other resources. They are dependent on the upper castes for their employment and livelihood. This is the reason they do not complain about the inhuman treatment meted out to them by the upper castes.

Referring to the latest episode in Sagga village, Phool Singh Gautam of the Jan Sangharsh Manch (JSM) Haryana said: “The government needs to take instant action against the accused in the case, and provide adequate security to the victims. We will launch an agitation if this is not done.”

He said such forms of social discrimination against Dalits, which have existed for centuries, need to be done away with. JSM Haryana has also sent a fact finding team to Sagga village.

The administration's response

At the time of filing this report, Union Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment, Ramdas Athawale, had reached the spot where the Dalits were camping. Meanwhile, talks were on between the Dalit representatives and the administration.

Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar disclosed that the state's MoS Social Justice and Empowerment, Krishan Kumar Bedi, and MLA Bhagwan Dass Kabirpanthi have been rushed to Sagga to pacify the members of both communities and ease the tension. He was replying to the issue regarding migration by some members of the Scheduled Castes from Sagga that was raised by Congress MLA Kuldip Sharma during zero hour in the ongoing Budget Session of the state Assembly.

Khattar said the state government was making efforts to normalise the situation in the village.

He said whenever such incidents opposing the members of the Scheduled Castes occur, politics begins, and people from even Delhi and Uttar Pradesh get involved and others are also provoked.

He said that earlier, both groups had agreed to sort out the issue, but as per information received by him, while some members agreed to sort it out, there were some others who wanted action to be taken as per the cases registered by the police. The CM said the government was trying to restore normalcy and resolve this issue. But in case it's not resolved, further action would be taken as per the FIR lodged in this case. The deputy commissioner at Karnal has also constituted a committee to resolve the issue.

First published: 7 March 2017, 18:30 IST