Demand fair probe, justice for gang-raped Dalit girls

Villagers from Hisar district protested outside Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda’s residence in New Delhi on Sunday. They were demanding a fair probe in the case concerning the gang-rape of four Dalit girls, allegedly by upper caste men, at Bhagana village in Hisar district about seven weeks ago.

The villagers demanded that fast track courts be set up to hear the case. They also called for an end to the continuous persecution of the Dalit community in a State, which has one of the highest percentages of Dalit population.

The protesters assembled outside Mr. Hooda’s residence at Pandit Pant Marg around 11 a.m. and camped there for nearly three hours. They were joined by other activists, as well as student groups from Delhi University and Jawaharlal Nehru University.

So far the Haryana police have arrested five persons. The persons whose arrest has been demanded by the community includes the village sarpanch. The villagers named and demanded the arrest of five more persons in connection with the incident. They also demanded that the four victims be paid a compensation of Rs.1 crore each and the same amount be paid to the Dalit families from Bhagana who were driven away following a boycott by the upper caste population.

They alleged that the overall political structure in Haryana — is controlled by the upper caste, particularly Jats — was responsible for their plight.

The angry protesters said Mr. Hooda was responsible for the situation they find themselves in — one where they have lost both their homes and livelihood — and demanded to meet him.

Vedpal Tanwar, who participated in the protest, said Dalit families had lost their livelihoods because the fields they worked in as agricultural labourers were owned upper caste people, who exploited and discriminated against them.

Mr. Hooda’s second term as Chief Minister will come to an end later this year, but protesters said all other parties, including the Dalit leaders in the Congress, were scared to take action against the Jats.

“Dalit leader and Congress State unit president Ashok Tanwar came to meet us the first day we arrived in Delhi. We had another meeting with him later. During one of the meetings he admitted that Haryana was the ‘laboratory of Dalit exploitation’. But Mr. Tanwar is helpless in front of powerful Jat leaders, like the Chief Minister himself, who run the show,” said Vedpal.

There was heavy police deployment outside the Haryana Chief Minister’s house and barricades had been placed to stop the protesters. The villagers, however, managed to remove a few barricades, resulting in the use of mild force against them. They finally dispersed around 2 p.m. after submitting a memorandum of their demands.

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