Special Correspondent

Bheels ostracised by villagers

JAIPUR: Tribal Bheel families living on an eight-bigha piece of land allotted by the Rajasthan Government in Beeladi village of Chittaurgarh district were evicted in a violent attack supported by the village panchayat recently. Crops grown on an adjacent land to support the community were also destroyed extensively.

A fact-finding team of the Centre for Dalit Rights (CDR), which visited Beeladi on Sunday, found that Bheels had been ostracised with the villagers refusing to have any transaction with them and denying them entry into public places. Police and district administration are pressing for compromise with the aggressors.

Though Bheels have been the targets of attack in the village for the past 40 years as the dominant castes wanted to take over their fertile land, the latest offensive started after the Public Work Departments started extension of an old grovel road under the Prime Minister's Gram Sadak Yojana.

The PWD excavator ran over one of tribals' homes on October 26 and destroyed it and made trenches on both sides of another house within an hour. The process was allegedly planned and overseen by a group of 50 to 60 villagers belonging to higher castes.

Later, Bheels received a notice on November 10 from the village panchayat stating that their supposedly illegal homes and fields would be evacuated by the next day. When Bheels and activists of Mazdoor Kisan Sangathan compiled a response explaining that the notice was illegal, the Sarpanch refused to accept their letter.

The panchayat dictated the next day that the Bheel community had to choose between letting the road run through homes, in return of which the panchayat would give them title to the pasture land, and vacating the pasture land for construction of new road on the old gravel road.

Even as the matter was being discussed with the intervention of police on November 11, the upper caste men mobilised several women -- who came with sickles -- and surrounded the group of Bheels and NGO activists and beat them with sticks.

Two Bheels and six activists sustained serious injuries and three of them were hospitalised. Afterwards, both the men and women of dominant castes allegedly destroyed the crops the Bheels had been cultivating, robbing them of their main source of income for the year.