New Delhi: On February 17, a wedding procession of a dalit bridegroom, who happens to be an Army Jawan, was disrupted in Gujarat’s Banaskantha district after people from Thakor Kali community pelted stones at them. Akash Kumar Koitiya, 22, was on a leave for his wedding, and was attacked for riding a mare as a part of his wedding procession, which is considered an upper caste privilege.
The police have registered a First Information Report (FIR) against the 11 men from thakor koli community, who allegedly pelted stones and stalled the procession. However, after police intervention, the wedding procession continued. No arrests have been made so far.
“We have booked 11 accused under Indian Penal Code Sections 323 (assault), 337 (causing hurt by rash act) 294 (obscenity), 506 (criminal intimidation) 147 (rioting) and 148 (rioting with deadly weapon) along with sections of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities Act),” P.G. Rajput, officer in charge of Gadh police station, was quoted by Indian Express.
The attack comes two days after dalits where attacked by upper caste Thakurs of the Mangta village in Kanpur Dehat. Newsclick has extensively reported on this incident in which 30 people belonging to dalit community sustained major injuries.
According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), in crimes against dalits, ranging from rape, murder, violence and land-related issues, Uttar Pradesh remains among one of the top states, followed by Gujarat.
As per the data, Uttar Pradesh has witnessed substantial increase of 47% from 2014 to 2018 in the 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 Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in these years.
The figures clearly show an increase in public assault and violence against dalits, raising serious questions regarding the role of state governments and the local administration in containing such incidents.
Not an Isolated Incident
What happened in Gujarat should not be treated as an isolated incident. There have been many such cases where a marriage has been disrupted because the groom was riding a horse, which is seen as a privilege owned by upper caste men.
In May, 2019, a dalit groom was beaten up by men from the rajput community for riding a horse in Napasar area in Bikaner district of Rajasthan. "Rajputs were saying that there is no tradition of groom sitting on a horse in our village," Napasar police station in-charge Suman Parihar had said.
Again in May 2019, a call for boycott was given by thakor community after a dalit family tried taking out a wedding procession with the groom riding the horse. The incident took place in Lhor village in Mehsana district of Gujarat. A few days later, in the same month, a similar incident of attacking a dalit groom occurred in Madhya Pradesh.
In April 2018, a dalit groom was attacked by upper caste men in Rajasthan for riding a horse in his wedding procession. This was followed by a similar incident in Ujjain of Madhya Pradesh.
In April 2017, a dalit groom was beaten up and pushed down from the horse in Haryana’s Dadri district as the groom performed “ghurchaari” (horse riding) ceremony.
In May 2015, dalit groom had to wear a helmet to protect himself from upper caste men who pelted stones during his marriage procession.
Commenting on the rising trend of attacks on Dalits, Sushil Gautam, a dalit activist based in Uttar Pradesh, told NewsClick: “It is not surprising if one looks into the ideology of the people ruling India right now. It comes straight from RSS/BJP. Since 2014, we have been hearing about Hindu Rashtra. It is coming from there.”
Citing the growing number of attacks in BJP-ruled UP, he said: “The atrocities against dalits have been on rise and more so, in Uttar Pradesh, after 2014. The government is silent and has given a free hand. Moreover, dalits don’t have resources to fight the cases in the court of law and impunity has been given to the perpetrators who go around committing crimes. It’s high time, we need understand and think exactly where we are heading.”io