Dalit man set ablaze over land dispute in Gondia

He was attacked for leading efforts to build a Buddha Viharaon land allotted by panchayat

Updated - November 16, 2021 07:02 pm IST

Published - May 19, 2014 04:43 am IST - NAGPUR

A 48-year-old Dalit man has been set ablaze by six persons over a land dispute at Kawalewada village in Gondia district of Maharashtra. “The victim, Sanjay Khobragade, has suffered 94 per cent burns and is in a bad condition,” Dr Vishal Eleke at the General Medical College here, where he is being treated, said on Sunday.

“They poured petrol on me and set me ablaze,” Mr. Khobragade told The Hindu in the hospital about the attack that took place in the early hours of Saturday. “It was done because of ‘ jatiwad’ [casteism]. Don’t we [Dalits] even deserve a piece of land for our religious places.”

One of the accused is a woman, the sarpanch of the village.

“We have registered a case under the Atrocity Act [Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act] and Sections 310 and 307 of the Indian Penal Code ... Prima facie, it is a case of a caste atrocity,” District Collector Amit Saini said. Return of land sought Mr. Khobragade’s wife, Devakabai, said: “There was a dispute between my husband and some people belonging to the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) from our village over a piece of land where a Buddha Vihara was to be built. In 2012, the village panchayat gave some land to the Dalits to build the Vihara, but in January this year, it asked us to return the land.”

“They [OBCs] were pressuring us [Dalits] to return the land saying that they want to build a ‘Bhaktanivas’ [a Hindu dharmashala]. We even returned 10 feet of land, but they have been threatening us since January,” she said.

In January, the land dispute was referred to the police who mediated between the Dalits and the OBCs, but Mr. Khobragade continued to receive threats since he was at the forefront of efforts to build the Vihara.

“They threatened us 15 days ago and asked my father to forgo the land. A week ago, they told us that May 16 will be yours and May 17 will be ours,” his son Pradip said.

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