Monday, February 14, 2011

Secularism in Rajasthan: Friendly neighbourhood Muslims drive away Dalits

Secularism in Rajasthan: Friendly neighbourhood Muslims drive away Dalits: "

Dalits driven out of violence-hit Alwar village

Special Correspondent

Their houses set on fire: Report

JAIPUR: Dalits driven out of Husaipur village near Bhiwadi in Alwar district of Rajasthan after a violent attack by the dominant Meo Muslims of the region this past week are unable to return to their homes because of a “reign of terror” reportedly prevailing in the area and a Minister allegedly extending support to the aggressors and trying to protect the accused.

The houses of Dalits were set on fire and their belongings looted and destroyed in a daylight attack allegedly by Meos on January 19 following an exchange of fire between the two communities, in which a Meo boy, Zahid, was killed. The dispute started when a hen was crushed under the wheels of Zahid’s tractor.

A fact-finding team of the Centre for Dalit Rights (CDR), which visited Husaipur on Monday, found that almost all houses of Dalits in the small village were destroyed and ransacked, their belongings including cash and jewellery looted and their cattle taken away by the assailants.

CDR director Satish Kumar said here that only a few Dalit women were staying in the ransacked houses, while all the male members of the households had fled to avoid reprisal by the dominant Meo community and victimisation by police. Police have arrested five Dalit youths on charges of Zahid’s murder, but have not acted on the FIR lodged by Dalits.

Dalits in the village, belonging to the poor Meghwal community, have small land holdings which are not enough for their sustenance. Even as there is a heavy police deployment in the area six days after the clash, the dominant Meos are allegedly threatening Dalits and not allowing them to come back to the village or repair their damaged houses.

While estimating the losses at about Rs.50 lakh, the CDR noted that the district administration had so far not undertaken any survey to assess the damage or provide relief to the victims, which was mandatory in such instances under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. “The mob torched the houses in the presence of police,” said Mr. Kumar.

The team members were shocked to find that State Medical and Health Minister Aimaduddin Ahmed Khan – elected to the Assembly from Tijara constituency in which Husaipur falls – attended the burial of Zahid, but did not deem it fit to visit the nearby Dalit locality to observe the damage or offer any kind of assistance to the victims of violence.

“This act of Mr. Khan gives credence to the suspicion among Dalits that he is supporting the aggressors and trying to shield those named in the FIR,” said Mr. Kumar, while affirming that Dalits were terrified by the reported political connections of the accused.

However, senior District Congress leader and Municipal Councillor in Bhiwadi, Omar Mohammed, told The Hindu that Mr. Khan had met some Dalit victims and assured them of the State Government’s assistance during his visit to Husaipur.