Lucknow: Not everyone in Domkhera village of Uttar Pradesh was shocked when a 17-year-old Dalit youth died on Saturday after being shot dead by upper-caste residents for entering the verandah of a Shiva temple.
Police officials and social workers say incidents of discrimination occur regularly, but only a handful get reported as members of the lower caste community still fear the “wrath of the upper-caste residents”.
How It Happened
Vikas Kumar Jatav, a student from Domkhera village which falls under Hasanpur police station in Western Uttar Pradesh, visited the local Shiva temple on June 1. However, a few upper caste youths objected to his entry into the temple. Minutes later, a scuffle ensued. The upper caste youths first thrashed Jatav with sticks, punched, and hurled casteist slurs at him. They did not stop here.
Four of them, identified as Lala Chauhan, Horam Chauhan, Jasveer, and Bhushan, reportedly came to his house at night, shot Vikas while he was sleeping, threatened the family, and fled.
Hearing the gunshots, Jatav’s family reportedly rushed to rescue him; however, he succumbed to his injuries before reaching the hospital.
Though the incident took place on the outskirts of the Amroha district on May 31, it came to light only on June 6 after local media came to know about it through villagers who visited the district headquarters to report the killing.
Meanwhile, all the four accused were booked under section 302 of Indian Penal Code (IPC) and under SC/ST Act, Superintendent of police (SP) of Amroha, Vipin Tada told NewsClick. "Lala Chauhan and Horam Chauhan have been arrested and the remaining two will also be nabbed soon," he added.
“An initial investigation found that there was a dispute between Vikas and the accused over money. The brother of Vikas had taken a mango orchard on rent. Lala and Horam were also partners with him. Later, they had a fallout after a money dispute. There was a brief fight over it a few days ago," the Amroha SP further added.
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However, father of slain Vikas Jatav alleged that his son was murdered by the four upper caste men after an altercation over entry into a temple in Domkhera village. “The fight had erupted after Vikas went to the temple to offer prayers on May 31. The upper-caste men objected to it and Vikas argued with them,” said Omprakash with his eyes welling up.
Omprakash accused the local cops of delaying the registration of a first information report (FIR). "If a complaint would have been filed on the same day and local police would have acted against the accused on time, my son would have been alive today," a distraught Omprakash told NewsClick.
According to the family members, Vikas was sleeping in the premises of the house when the four men came and opened fire at him late Saturday night. “Hearing the gun shots, we rushed to save Vikas. The four men had fled by then and Vikas was bleeding. He died by the time we reached hospital,” the father said.
The attack comes five months after Dalits were attacked by the upper caste Thakurs of the Mangta village in Kanpur Dehat. in which 30 people belonging to Dalit community sustained major injuries and their houses were torched.
UP Tops the List in Atrocities Against Dalits
According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) 2018 data, regarding crimes against Dalits, ranging from rape, murder, violence and land-related issues, Uttar Pradesh topped the list, followed by another Bharatiya Janata Party- ruled state, Gujarat.
As per the data, Uttar Pradesh has witnessed substantial increase of 47% from 2014 to 2018 in crimes committed against Dalits followed by 26% in Gujarat, 15% in Haryana, 14% in Madhya Pradesh and 11% in Maharashtra. Ironically, these states were ruled by BJP in these years.
The figures clearly show an increase in incidents of assault and violence against Dalits, raising serious questions regarding the role of state governments and the local administration in containing such incidents.
Speaking to NewsClick, Satish Prakash, a Dalit thinker and associate professor of physics at Meerut University, said that this is nothing new; “this keeps happening”. Dalits have been suppressed and it is part of the system, he said.
"Suppression of Dalits across the country is more or less the same due to the caste system. But the state with the most religious activities will see more oppression of Dalits. Where there are more temples and religious places, there will be more frenzy of the religion, it is bound to happen," he said.
"The upper caste people and system that suppresses Dalits know that they will not react despite having been beaten, their women being raped. India has been witnessing such incidents from the pre-independence era and they knew that there are never any repercussions. But Uttar Pradesh witnessed a Dalit movement, Dalits ruled the state and most importantly, they are socially, educationally and economically strong and act against such caste-related violence,” added Prakash.
Prakash also estimated that the atrocities against Dalits will increase in coming years. "The biggest chunk of migrant workers has returned to Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Now, the feudal mindset of the people will find any excuse for tyranny and atrocities against migrant labourers including women and their children.”
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