32 persons convicted in Mirchpur caste violence case

Eight years after caste violence rocked Mirchpur village in Haryana, the Delhi High Court on Friday convicted four persons for murder and 28 others from the Jat community for rioting and other crimes.

The riots broke out on April 21, 2010. Eighteen houses belonging to the Valmikis, a Dalit community, were burnt by an irate mob comprising the Jats, the dominant community in that village. A 60-year-old Dalit man and his differently abled daughter were burnt alive.

A Bench of Justices S. Muralidhar and I.S. Mehta said atrocities on the Scheduled Castes show no signs of abating even after 71 years of Independence.

The trigger

The trigger for the Mirchpur riots was seemingly a trivial incident that happened on the evening of June 19, 2010 — a dog belonging to a Valmiki resident had barked at a group of Jat youth returning home through the main thoroughfare in the village.

At least 254 Valmiki families fled Mirchpur in the aftermath of the riots and many sought shelter in a farmhouse of one Ved Pal Tanwar. More than eight years later, many of those who fled are yet to return to Mirchpur.

‘Fair trial’

In December 2010, the Supreme Court ordered shifting of the case from Haryana to Delhi following apprehensions whether a fair trial would be conducted in the neighbouring State. Of the 103 accused persons who stood trial, five were juveniles and were tried before the Juvenile Justice Board in Hisar. Of the remaining 98, a trial court here in 2011 convicted 15 persons from the Jat community for various crimes. Of the 15, three persons died during the trial.

The High Court on Friday, however, overturned the acquittal of another 20 persons who were acquitted by the trial court. It directed the convicted persons to surrender on or before September 1.

‘Unlawful assembly’

“The conclusion of the trial court that there was no criminal conspiracy is unsustainable in law,” the Bench said, adding, “It is clear in the present case that an unlawful assembly comprising members of the Jat community was formed with the common object of setting fire to the properties of the Valmiki community and perpetrating violence against them.”

“Members of the said unlawful assembly came armed with stones and oil cans as well as lathis, jellies and gandasis which, in the present context, may be considered deadly weapons. The common object of the unlawful assembly was to ‘teach the Balmiki community a lesson’,” the Bench said.

Fear that still exists

“Those [from Valmiki community] who had decided to stay back at Mirchpur village did not support the prosecution in the present criminal trial while those who decided not to return are the ones who did,” the Bench said, adding, “This in itself is a telling commentary on the fear and intimidation that the Dalits must still experience in Mirchpur as a result of the incident.”

The High Court also questioned the decision of the Haryana government to rehabilitate the displaced families not in Mirchpur but in a separate township.

“The question is whether this accords with the constitutional promise of equality, social justice and fraternity assuring the dignity of the individual,” it remarked.

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Printable version | Nov 22, 2020 8:46:08 PM |

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