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Thursday 17 November 2011

Has India failed as a nation to provide justice to all.

Has India failed as a nation to provide justice to all.
No criminal conspiracy in Mirchpur
By Vidya Bhushan Rawat
A Delhi court yesterday declared that there was no criminal conspiracy in Mirchpur and therefore it honorably acquitted 82 accused while framing charges against the other 15 accused who were found guilty of not committing murder. Mirchpur incident came into focus when on April 21st, 2010, a father and his disabled girl was brutally burnt by some of the Jat villagers as they refused to toe the line of the powerful Jats and were living a relatively better life much to the envy of the powerful Jats. When the Balmikis became enraged and protested the state government ordered an inquiry to the incident and tried to cover up the case. It was only after the intervention by the Supreme Court  that the case was transferred to a Delhi court in Rohini yet the end result remain the same. It would have been the same case had the case been filed in Haryana.
Mirchpur incident reflect many thing. That the Balmikis and other Dalits often becomes victim of caste violence in Haryana where caste identities are sharpened and mingling is not allowed, when they assert and have a ‘feel good’ factor for themselves. It means that the upper caste will be angry when a Dalit family is happy despite all their troubles as the Hindus most of the time wants them to stick to their traditional occupation and beg them for honor. Now after much harder work, the Dalits in Haryana and Punjab are not moving to cities and charting a different path for their livelihood much to the discomfort of the powerful caste forces. It is also a fact that Mirchpur violence was not first instance of caste violence in Haryana. Prior to that we had seen many places the violence against Dalit including infamous Jhajjhar where a Dalit was murdered for tanning the skin of a cow. Haryana may be boasting too much for its farmers but it has not been able to develop a modern democratic culture. It may have elected governments like any other state but it is more feudalistic in nature than any other state.
The Khap rules Haryana. The Khap is the Panchayat as well as the farmers who have developed their own sense of superiority complex. It is not strange therefore that when I attended a farmer’s protest in Haryana against land acquisition, most of the farmers still wanted to be called as ‘Zamindar’. They felt proud of being so. Haryana has the dominance of Jaats and Gujjars since independence. The change of democratic system which allowed these communities to grow has not percolated further. Any effort to change is resisted violently. Unfortunately, the farmers movement in Haryana has just been reduced to bargain better land price for them and not related to anything with farming. It is most to convert farmers to real estate agents like what has happened in Western Uttar-Pradesh. Haryana never had land reform hence despite so called prosperity; it is a few communities who enjoyed the fruits of suppression of Dalits. Most of the Dalits are in to agrarian work making their livelihood through agricultural labors.
Now, the Chamars and Balmikis have delinked themselves from the traditional occupation as they want to get educated and do the work which gives them respect. It is not easy for the upper caste to tolerate the new assertion of a Balmiki in Haryana. As a manual scavenger they were prohibited entering the house but that was not the problem. The Jaat or Gujjar pride is hurt when they see the young boys from Dalit communities doing different work than ‘meant’ for them. Secondly, if a Balmiki has relatively a better house in the village or they are enjoying their life, that too becomes a matter of great ‘concern’ of them. And this anger is reflected somewhere else and on some day when the community is targeted.
With political power and sheer number games on their side, Jats know that any action against them would cost the political parties their votes in Western Uttar-Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan. That is why the political parties do not speak. Other than that, there are so-called farmer’s support groups, who would talk about them as if ‘ Zamaindari’ is their fundamental right. Such person glorifies the so called farming even at the cost of human lives and the oppression and ostracisation of Dalits in these villages. Not a single person writing about agricultural labour or agrarian question ever mention the condition of agricultural labour in Haryana who are mostly Dalits. Their marginalization and exploitation is complete yet have not attracted the attention of our friends who are worried about ‘kheti-kisani’.
Nothing happened to Mirchpur exploiters. They knew it well that such incidents will never get a witness. When an entire village turns against a community or an individual who will lodge a complaint to the police or authorities? Who will dare to become a witness when faced with deep pressure to save the people who saved their ‘pride’? The ‘pride’ of Jats at that moment was to teach a lesson to asserting Balmikis and hence most of the villagers felt they had not done anything wrong. The best way to tell the authorities is that they saw nobody.  When the entire village has turned racist and casteist then talk of sanity is not possible. There the rule of law has to be enforced. No decentralization work here. These are the dangers of decentralization. If the central law is not there then the local feudal lords will not allow the Dalits to flourish. So, despite so-called ‘decentralised democracy’, we are still bound by International and national human rights laws. Unfortunately, those who talk of the so-called decentralization process are glamorizing those Khaps which must be destroyed. There is nothing glamorous in these Khaps which are casteist and are a blot to any civilized society.
Mirchpur also reflect the poor state of our governance. The issue of Dalits will only get prominence if they are suitable to the ruling elites. Whenever and wherever the issue of Dalits becomes an obstacle to get sympathy or political benefits the issue will be side tracked. Hence, the Haryana police predominantly a Jat-Gujjar enterprise did not do anything to nab the culprits. It just did everything formally. Their counterparts in Delhi have the same mind. I know once I met a senior officer of Delhi police related to a case against Valmiki family in Narela where the police was openly supporting the Jaats who had joined hand to throw a Valmiki family out of that place yet the officer was showing his helplessness. ‘ You see, I come from JNU and have progressive thoughts but our Jawans and our junior officers hail from Haryana and Western Uttar-Pradesh, who still have the same social and cultural prejudices which existed in the village. So, it is not just a legal problem but greater issue of social change, the officer said. My point was that ofcourse, we have to fight for this and social organizations must do it but then how many of the social organizations will get any support if they start working on Caste and untouchability?  Secondly, we know all these realities but the state should also show some spine in this case. Even when Mirchpur case was transferred to Delhi for the reason that the powerful people would not be able to influence the witness, the fact remain the same. Delhi is not different than Haryana.
We know it well that such things happen. While our media and ‘social activists’ went in the town and at the India gate with candles in their hand to force the court give a favorable verdict in the case of ‘Jessica Lal’ but the same media do not have time to even give some space to this.
Mirchpur is a common failure of Indian democracy. It is failure of our civil society which has no time for it. It is failure of the forces of social justice who are unable to join hand and take it to logical conclusion. Our political parties have always been casteist in nature hence if this matter does not suit them they will avoid it. The administration has no will as it remain an administration to save the powerful. Haryana will continue to have more Mirchpurs and bigger Khap challenging the very democratic set up the country when it does not suit them. Mirchpur’s judgment has shown how helpless the case of justice in India is. The forces of caste are so powerful that they have law, political system and media with their side. It is tragic but truth. How can a country living in so much divisions and prejudices be called a society or a nation.
When Jessica Lal’s verdict was delivered by the local court acquitting all the accused the Times of India wrote prominently ‘ No one killed Jessica’ and media went overboard to get ‘Jesica’ justice. Her sister became a ‘social activist’ and many more friends also became ‘social activists’. The upper courts were forced to take a matter seriously. Media pressure, in the name of public pressure, finally brought justice to Jessica. But it is tragic that a case of racial violence, caste prejudice, does not get a single column report in front page in the media. The worst are the TV channels who seem to have become the guardians of our morality. But there was no news. It is a shame that these ‘moral guardians’ sitting in the TV studios have no time to discuss Mirchpur which is not even two hours drive from Delhi. Why are they silent?
Indian state is nothing but is controlled by the brahmanical manipulators. Unless, we understand it, nothing will move. These manipulators work in media and in our state apparatus. Through media they change the debate, take you somewhere else. There are those who have taken it to them to be our moral guardians. They want to be looked as ‘conscious keeper’ of the country yet such blatant violations of human rights of people are ignored by them. All the people become one for them. It is easier to abuse politicians and government from the loudspeakers of TV studios but please go beyond it. If your caste prejudices are out, then you will see, the people of India, we appreciate too much, are suffering from a big disease of caste prejudices and hidden apartheid. Unless India addresses this, it will never be a nation. It will be a country of a few power elite while others will suffer without our mind and action going to them.
Therefore, Mirchpur case is an example where Indian state should show some spine. Our media should stand with the victims and our social movements must understand that just large number of people for a cause may not necessarily be on the right side. It is time to call these majoritarian forces a bluff. India need protection of the individuals’ right and such tendencies of majoritarianism will demolish a great constitution and our society as a whole.  The issue of violence against Dalits is a serious matter and if India fail to provide justice, then it has to be prepared for its repercussion and social unrest. The case is a challenge and test of our democratic set up. The higher courts must take note of it. It should not be left to an unwilling government. Time has come when people must file case on their own so that the complicity of state apparatus is exposed in it. 

Vidya Bhushan Rawat
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