[Newsclick travelled through the Chambal region, one of the most backward regions in Madhya Pradesh, to find out the condition of people and major issues facing them. This is Part 1 of a series of reports from Chambal.]
Gwalior/Morena/Bhind: Even after 10 months of the clashes on Bharat Bandh on April 2, 2018 – between Dalit and upper castes in the Gwalior-Chambal region of Madhya Pradesh – justice still seems to be out of the reach of the victims.
Seven persons, including five Dalits had reportedly fallen prey to the bullets during the clashes. The victims’ families have accused the police of turning a blind eye despite having adequate evidence and videos. They have claimed that the police have been protecting the accused because they belong to upper caste, and have political support.
On March 20, 2018, the Supreme Court had delivered the verdict, making immediate arrest of any person charged under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 more difficult. To protest against this verdict, Dalit organisations had called for Bharat Bandh on April 2, 2018. This was the first time all Dalit organisations had come under one roof, and had called for a ‘Bharat Bandh’ without support from any political party.
The Bharat bandh rocked the nation, where Hindi-speaking states – Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar and Jharkhand – were highly affected. However, Madhya Pradesh’s Gwalior-Chambal region was the worst affected.
Bhind, Morean and Gwalior are the bordering districts of MP, close to Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. The Chambal region from this area has also been infamous for dacoits. It is also considered to be the most backward region of the state.
The Dalit population in Chambal is over 20 per cent, of which, a large majority is the Jatav community, who are recognised as the most conscious community among the Dalits.
On April 2, Dalit groups carried out protests in all the three districts. The ensuing violence claimed seven lives, and left hundreds of people injured.
In Gwalior, Deepak Jatav (25), was shot at his tea shop; Rakesh Tamotiya (40), a labourer, was shot when he was returning to home in Bhim Nagar, and Vimal Jatav (30), an IAS aspirant of Dabra tehsil, was also shot dead. In Bhind, three people were killed – Akash Garg (16) and Pradeep (18) in Mehgaon, and Mahaveer Singh Rajawat (35), in Macchand village of Lahar panchayat. Rajawat, who ran an NGO, was allegedly killed in police firing. In Morena, Rahul Pathak (21) was allegedly killed by his own friend Ramu Gurjar, when he was trying to reload the gun on the day of violence at Subhash Nagar.
Newsclick possesses copies of the documents of the cases filed for three Dalits’ killings. Cases under section 302 (murder), 147, 148, 149 and 3(2)(V) of the SC/ST Atrocities Act, 1989 have been registered against the upper caste men with their names. In one case, the accused is unidentified – even 10 months after the alleged killing. The police have failed to act in either of these cases. Victims’ kin told Newsclick: “Forget about the punishment and justice; the police haven’t even arrested them.”
Also read: Upper Caste ‘Bharat Bandh’ – In Defence of Dalit Atrocities
“Whenever we visit the police station to know progress in the murder case of my son, police personnel shoo us away, saying ‘Jo hona tha ho gaya, jab kuch hoga bata denge, roz roz mat aaya karo (Whatever was to happen, has happened. When there will be any development, we will inform. Don’t keep coming everyday),” said Mohan Singh Jatav, father of deceased Deepak Jatav.
“A few months ago, four to five members of the upper caste threatened me, and asked me to withdraw the murder case. When I refused, the following day, on June 21, 2018, some men, armed with guns, entered my home at night in an attempt to threaten or kill us. However, they escaped as I raised the alarm,” said Mohan Jatav.
The following morning, Mohan reported the matter to Thatipur police station.
Netram Tamotiya, 78, father of another deceased, Rakesh Tamotiya, has another story to tell. He said, “Rakesh was the only breadwinner of the family. After his death, his wife returned to her home with children. Now, at the age of 78, I’m fighting twin battles: to earn for the family, and to get justice for my son.”
Case of Rakesh’s death has been registered at the Thatipur police station of Gwalior, but the accused remains unidentified even in the chargesheet.
Akash and Pradeep, residents of Mehgaon of Bhind district, were shot dead within a distance of 200-300 meters from their home in the Mehgaon market. The following day, their family members filed the cases. Their cases are too strong, and the accused are identified because they were allegedly shot in broad daylight. “Everyone knows, but police have turned a blind eye,” claimed the victims’ kin.
“My brother was innocent, and was killed for no reason on April 2 by the two sons of Vindo Vaishandhar, who belong to an upper caste. He lives close to the Mehgaon market. Despite the murder charges, police have not initiated any action,” said Vikas Garg, elder brother of Akash.
When contacted, Chambal IG Yogesh Deshmukh said, “In most of the cases which were registered during the protests, police have filed chargesheets in the court, and follow-up action will take place. As far as victims are concerned, the police are doing their job, and we have made a lot of progress in these cases.”
The game of arrests
To control the situation, the police had arrested hundreds of people, and had booked thousands during and following the protests and the clashes. In Bhind, the police had named and booked more than 50 people, and had detained hundreds of locals as suspects. In Morena, the police had named and booked 134 people, announcing rewards on 12 Dalit leaders – between Rs 5,000 and Rs 10,000. Similarly, in Gwalior, the police had booked more than 100 people, and had arrested many as suspects under sections 147, 148, 149, 307, 336, 353, 186, 188 and 341 of the IPC.
The use of ‘others unknown’ (anya agyaat) in the police FIRs is known to create panic and terror, and also to avail unending opportunities to extort. Anyone and everyone can be arrested, or anyone and everyone who could be arrested can be left untouched, for a price.
In all the three districts, clashes had erupted between the upper castes and Dalits, however, the police have booked only Dalits so fat. Not even a single man belonging to any upper caste has been booked in the April 2 violence.
According to the residents of Bhim Nagar and Galla Kothar, Gwalior and Morena’s Uttampura and Singal – situated on the either side of the Morena railway track – on April 3, the police not only ransacked their homes, attacked women and children, but also detained hundreds of youths by dragging them from their homes, and took them to the police stations.
“Police detained hundreds of youths in the wee hours of April 3. Tortured and starved them for days. Some of the youths spent three to four months in the jail. However, they were innocent. They were mostly labourers or students. Every third youth in theses colonies is named in these cases, no matter he was a part of the violence or not. The police have ruined their future,” said 45-year-old Baijnath Pippal, a local leader.
Also read: "BJP Wants to Push Back the Dalit Movement"
Residents of these areas have claimed that the police barbarically beat them, and dragged them to police station. One of the victims, Akash Jigneriya, a student of BA, second year, told Newsclick, “I was sleeping at my home in my undergarments when the police dragged me from my bed and started using expletives denoting my caste. I begged for mercy, but they took me to the police station. In the jail, they beat me for the next two days. I was hungry and shattered. This happened with my friends and neighbours too.”
After spending thousands of rupees, Akash allegedly managed to get bail after two months of the arrest. "I was not involved in any kind of violence or protest. I was at home because of the violence, but the police booked me anyway. I have lost a year, and I don't know how much I will have to suffer,” he added.
Akash’s neighbour, Pradeep and his brothers were detained by the police in the same fashion. Both were tailors by profession, and ran a shop in the city. Talking to Newsclick, Pradeep said, “Police beat us for the next two days, and were verbally abusing me by using my caste. After two days, police personnel came with a proposal to me: pay Rs 2 lakh for each and go home. Those who paid it, got released, and those who failed, were sent to the jail.”
Pradeep and his brother got a bail after four months. In between, he lost his shop because he failed to pay the rent. They were the sole source of income for the family. Due to the alleged torture in the police custody, Pradeep’s both hands and fingers turned inefficient to work with.
What is interesting is that while those killed were Dalits (victims), nonetheless only Dalits are being arrested.
The locals Newsclick spoke to alleged that in all the three districts, police supported the upper caste people, and later, the RSS and Bajrang Dal men were brought in. They say that the police barbarically suppressed the Dalits, and not a single upper caste man touched.
When contacted, one of the main accused of the Gwalior violence, Raja Chouhan (32), who was booked under section 308 of the IPC and SC/ST Atrocities Act, said, “We opened fire to protect ourselves from the mob. The mob was attacking our houses, shops and vehicles. We have not attacked, though, we had been attacked.”
Chouhan claimed that he possesses an “unseen” video of the incident, where Dalits can be seen attacking his home, shops and vehicles. However, he failed to show any such video despite our several attempts.
Chouhan was in the spotlight of Gwalior violence after his video of opening firing on the Dalit basti behind the walls went viral, and a number of major news channels broadcasted it. However, the police failed to arrest him, and he has managed to get a bail from the court.
When Newsclick talked to the Chambal IG Yogesh Deshmukh about the police action against only the Dalits and not the upper caste people, he said, “Police have only acted on complaints. Whatever complaints police have received during the protest, police acted over them.”
Yogesh Deshmukh has recently replaced Santosh Kumar Singh as new IG of Chambal.
The BJP, which was in power for the last 15 years in the state, got a major blow from the Chambal region. In recently concluded assembly elections, out of 17 seats of all the three districts (Bhind 5, Morena 6, Gwalior 6), the BJP only managed to win two seats, while the Congress won 14 seats and BSP won one. In the 2013 elections, the BJP had won 11 seats, the Congress won four and the BSP won two. Chambal, which was once the den of the BJP, has now turned into desert for the saffron party.
Soon after the forming the Congress government, State Minister PC Sharma had announced withdrawal of all the cases of ‘political vendetta’ and false cases filed against Dalits and farmers during the protests by the previous government. However, no case has been withdrawn even after 40 days of the announcement.
Also read: MP Govt to Withdraw ‘False’ Cases Against Farmers, Dalits, Muslims and Christians