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At Gardih, caste violence robbed many of franchise

During the second phase of the Lok Sabha elections, Bhumihar supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party allegedly beat up Dalit villagers when they tried to cast their vote. Photo: Manob Chowdhury

During the second phase of the Lok Sabha elections, Bhumihar supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party allegedly beat up Dalit villagers when they tried to cast their vote. Photo: Manob Chowdhury  

Dalits say Bhumihars attacked them, but FIR accuses 100 of them of capturing booth

Dalit voters at Gardih of Jamua block in the Koderma constituency allege that Bhumihar supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party attacked them and stopped them from voting during the April 10 election.

They say the Bhumihars beat them with lathis and hurled bricks and stones at them when they tried to vote for the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) candidate. The assailants assaulted a woman while she was voting, leading to the violence. Only 10 of them were able to vote.

The Bhumihars have since accused the Dalits of assaulting a woman from their village.

The police have filed a first information report, accusing 100 youths from the Dalit village of capturing the polling booth and violence, and naming nine men from the Bhumihar village.

Chief Electoral Officer P.K. Jajoria told The Hindu he had not received any complaints from the polling staff of voting being disrupted.

At Jamua, the Dalit and Bhumihar villages are separated by a road under construction. The wheat fields around the Bhumihar houses lie fallow after harvest. Most of those accused of capturing the booth live at Dhudhwatoli, a village of 50 Dalit Turi families. The Bhumihars live less than a kilometre away at Jiyatoli in a mix of kutcha and concrete houses.

At Dhudhwatoli, Govardhan Rai, Lakhan Rai, Nakul Ram and Reetal Rai bear deep cuts and fresh wounds on the front and back of their heads. Santosh Turi has the mark of a lathi on his left arm. The people here say a scuffle broke out in the morning soon after women from the village made their way to the polling booth at the village school.

“When I tried to vote, they cut the ‘line’ [power supply] and there was no beep [from the electronic voting machine]. I tried again, but two men from Jiyatoli entered the booth and caught me from behind. I screamed and tried to run. My husband rushed in from outside. They hit him with stones and tore his clothes,” Uma Devi, in her early thirties, says.

Govardhan Rai bears a deep gash on his forehead, sustained, he says, while coming to his wife’s rescue. Sunil Kumar Singh, a CPI(ML) worker, showed medical bills from the Government Hospital at Bengabad.

Anup Turi from the village alleged that a Home Guard man, Ashok Narayan Dev, a Bhumihar himself, had sided with those from Jiyatoli.

Ganesh Rai, a village elder, showed an elector photo identity card issued in January 1995, which, he said, he had never been allowed to use to vote independently.

“The Bhumihars are angry we will not work on their farms just for wheat and will demand wages now. They always voted on our behalf; they cannot tolerate that we wish to vote independently,” he says.

At Jiyatoli, Mr. Dev, who is on leave now, said he had tried to intervene after CPI(ML) workers captured the booth. He showed three of his front teeth, which he said were broken in the scuffle.

“The CPI(ML) captured the booth and were not letting anyone vote for the BJP or the Congress. I reached there, and asked everyone to stand in 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.

Superintendent of Police, Giridih, Kranti Kumar Gadhesi, said he had ordered an inquiry.

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Printable version | Feb 19, 2020 7:19:05 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/at-gardih-caste-violence-robbed-many-of-franchise/article5944690.ece

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