Giridih Superintendent of Police Kranti Kumar Gadhesi had ordered an enquiry into the incident

Dalit villagers were attacked lathis, with bricks and stones thrown at them by upper-caste Bhumihars when they tried to cast their vote in villages in Gardih village in Jamua block in Giridih. Jamua which falls in Koderma constituency was scheduled for polling in the first phase of elections on April 10. Dalit villagers here said they had tried to vote for CPI (ML) when they were stopped by Bhumihar villagers, supporters of BJP, who assaulted a Dalit woman from their hamlet while she was casting her vote leading to a scuffle.

The FIR names 100 youth from the Dalit hamlet as accused of capturing the polling booth and of violence, and nine men from the Bhumihar village. The Bhumihar farmers have since accused the Dalit villagers of assaulting a woman from their village. The Chief Electoral Office PK Jajoria told The Hindu he had not received any complaints from the polling staff of voting being disrupted.

In Jamua, the Dalit hamlets are separated by the Bhumihar houses by an under-construction road. The fields around the Bhumihar houses lay fallow after the wheat harvest. Dhudhwatoli, where a majority of the accused of the poll day violence live is a hamlet of 50 Dalit Turi families. The Bhumihars live less than a kilometer away in Jiyatoli in a mix of kachcha and concrete houses.

In Dhudhwatoli, four men – Govardhan Rai, Lakhan Rai, Nakul Ram, Reetal Rai – bear deep cuts and fresh wounds on the front and back of their heads. Santosh Turi has the mark of a lathi injury on his left arm. The villagers recounted a scuffle had broken out in the morning soon after the women from Dhudhwatoli made their way to the polling booth set up at the village school. “When I tried to cast my vote, they cut the “line” (power supply) and there was no sound of a beep. I tried again but Suraj Dev and Manoj Dev from Jiyatoli entered the booth and caught me from my behind. I screamed and tried to run. My husband who waiting outside rushed in. They hit him with stones and tore his clothes,” said Uma Devi, in her early 30s. Her husband Govardhan Rai bore a deep gash on his forehead. Sunil Kumar Singh, a CPI(ML) worker showed medical bills from Bengabad Government Hospital for treatment of the injuries.

“The men from Jiyatoli were sitting outside at the table of the polling staff. They cut the “line” when I cast my vote and said said “Hato, vote nahi dalne denge” (Leave. You will not be allowed to vote.) They told the staff we were trying to vote twice,” said Devanti Devi. “The presiding officer sat there like a Surdas, as if he could not see. Once he tried to get up and intervene, the Bhumihar men caught him by his collar and made him sit again,” alleged Anup Turi. He alleged the Home Guard who arrived at the polling booth Ashok Narayan Dev, a Bhumihar himself, had sided with the men from Jiyatoli.

Ganesh Rai, a village elder showed a voter ID from January 1995 which he said he had never been allowed to use to vote independently. “The Bhumihar are angry we will not work on their farms for wheat alone now and demand wages. They always voted on our behalf, they cannot tolerate that we wish to vote for CPI(ML). Even in the 2010 panchayat election a fight had broken out as we tried to vote,” he said. The villagers said only ten of them were able to vote on April 10.

In Jiyatoli, Home Guard Ashok Narayan Dev who is on medical leave now and back in his village said he had tried to intervene after CPI(ML) workers captured the polling booth. He showed three of his front teeth had been broken in the scuffle. “I got a report from Jiyatoli that CPI(ML) had captured the booth and were not letting anyone vote for BJP or Congress. I reached there, and asked everyone to make a queue but they hit me with a brick and I fell. I did not see anyone from Jiyatoli carrying any stones, which were stacked by men from Dhudhwatoli,” he said, adding that later voting had resumed peacefully. Munna Narayan Dev, the BJP polling booth agent in Jiyatoli, alleged the Dalit villagers had tried to vote twice leading to the Bhumihars to call the police. He alleged the Dalit villagers had assaulted a woman from Jiyatoli but that she was not available to speak about the incident.

Giridih Superintendent of Police Kranti Kumar Gadhesi said he had ordered enquiry.