"It's been eight long years. We went to Delhi to meet politicians. We went to courts to seek justice, but it is not in sight. We are fighting. Let's see till when they can deny us the justice." The words of one of the family members of the victim in Bhagana gangrape case in 2014 depict their ordeal.
Bhagana in Hisar came to limelight after four Dalit girls alleged that they were gang raped by the members of the dominating Jat community following a tussle over land distribution of common land reserved for the benefit of the village.
The incident also brought less covered aspect of untouchability and discrimination in Haryana to the fore. Dalits allege that the tussle erupted after the members of the Jat community built walls on the disputed land which literally blocked two houses of Dalits families. The land measuring 280 acres was allegedly distributed among the members of the Jat community whereas the Dalits were asked to pay Rs 1,000 for 60 yards of each acre. Interestingly, the land distribution was executed by a committee appointed by local Khap Panchayat.
Following the discord, a few Dalit families wrote to the district administration complaining about the unfair and unjust land distribution. However, the assertive action led to the social boycott by Jat community. Another victim suggested that daily life was made difficult. He said, "First we were denied groceries, then basic amenities were denied. Women felt unsafe and we were even denied work under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. What could we do?" The families, owing to the social stigmatisation, moved to neighbouring villages and areas.
After years of struggle, the ultimate relief came from National Scheduled Caste Commission on March 8 this year which directed the state government to rehabilitate the victim families and provide them land and their houses within 45 days. Satish Kajla, who has been at the forefront of the protests, told NewsClick that the deadline has expired but no action has been taken by the administration. He said, “The District Commissioner, instead of listening to demands, has ordered action against us for protesting in Mini Secretariat. Our tent was torn. We were lathi charged. Even sedition charge was imposed against our fellows."
Kajla, however, seems optimistic after the Bhim Army has extended their support to the victim families. Manjeet Nautiyal, National Vice President of Bhim Army argues that the district was home to three infamous incidents. However, no sensitivity towards these cases was shown by the administration. “First, we saw Bhagana, then Mirchpur incident and finally Bhatala. All cases show how Dalits were herded away from their homes. But no action has been taken against the culprits. That's why the victims of all these incidents have come together to seek justice. And we will get it."
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