Dalits leave Haryana village to protest denial of land, social boycott

Dalits from Bhagana village with their families protesting outside the Mini Secretariat at Hisar on Wednesday.— Photo: Sandeep Saxena  

Catching the Hisar district administration unawares and landing the Haryana Government in an embarrassing situation, 70 Dalit families belonging to Bhagana village near here have left their village in protest against the machinations of upper caste sections in denying them land and access to the village's common resources. The villagers have pitched camp outside the Hisar Deputy Commissioner's office for the past three days.

In 2008, Below Poverty Line households in the village were promised plots of 100 square feet and land was earmarked for this purpose. However, the then Sarpanch who belonged to the Chamar community and had initiated the process was prevented from carrying out this plan. Some months ago, a new Sarpanch belonging to the Jat community took his place and rolled back all the proposed plans.

When the Dalits here began making vocal demands for the plots, the dominant Jat community hit back using social boycott tactics. Ponds which the Dalits used for drinking water and other purposes were dried up. A playground used predominantly by Dalit children was dug up. Access to roads for several Chamar households was blocked by erecting six-foot-high walls.

With the story catching the attention of the national media, a bevy of important persons have visited the village to ascertain the situation — the Deputy Commissioner on Tuesday, a Haryana legislator and the I-G of Police on Wednesday. A police team has also been posted at the village to maintain peace. The policemen here denied an alleged assault incident that happened on Wednesday morning though a complaint has been registered.

The villagers have held four meetings with the Deputy Commissioner in the past three days.

They say the district administration is offering them jobs under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, and security, if they return to the village.

The protesters, led by the Hisar district leadership of the Bahujan Samaj Party, are demanding that the withheld plot allotments be released and that the allegations levelled against the upper-caste landlords of attempting to steal village common land be investigated. They are also demanding prosecution of their oppressors under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act for the various instances of social boycott.

BSP district president Balraj Satrodiya alleged that every day at least three instances of atrocities against Dalits are committed in Hisar district but the perpetrators were either never arrested or were never booked under the stiff SC/ST PoA Act.