Monday, April 21, 2014

In another case of social boycott, Dalits of North Gujarat village seek security to return to their house

Dalit women in a Gujarat village
By Our Representative
In a stark example of what may happen in a traditional Gujarat village in case a higher caste girl falls in love with a Dalit and marries him, a recent complaint to the Banaskantha superintendent of police (SP) suggests how deep casteism is rooted in the state’s rural areas. The complaint, a copy of which is with Counterview, is about Kishorkumar Hemji Pandya, a resident of Harijan Vas in Khimanwas village of Vav taluka of Banaskantha district. Pandya married Vimlaben Prajapati on December 13, 2013 in Vadodara.
While the complaint suggests those in power, as also social organizations fighting against deep caste roots, have failed to bring an end to the ingrained divide in any manner, it suggests the extent to which the upper castes can go in intimidating the lower caste families, with those in power siding with the upper castes. According to the complaint, made on April 14, 2014, several high caste persons, including the family of the girl and several Rajputs, reached Pandya’s house on December 14, 2013, searching for the boy.
The complaint said, the higher caste persons threatened to kill the boy, asking his family members: How dare a Dalit boy from to the Garoda sub-caste, touch a Prajapati girl? Garoda is the highest sub-caste in the Dalit hierarchy, and hence is more acceptable among upper castes than other Dalit sub-castes. Traditionally, its main job is to perform priestly rites among other Dalit castes – as high caste Brahmins wouldn’t enter a Dalit household to perform the rites. In the hierarchical social order, Brahmin priests consider Dalits “impure”.
The complaint, lodged by Hemjibhai Gordhanbhai Pandya, father of Kishorkumar, says that the higher caste persons came to their house twice, and every time they threatened to hand over the boy to them. They said they would “tear boy into pieces”, according to the complaint, adding, “They continued threatening us despite the fact that we told them that we have no knowledge about his whereabouts. Earlier, we told them, he worked as multipurpose health worker at Motakapra village, Deesa taluka, Banaskantha district.”
“Things reached such a point that, using their influence, the upper caste persons were able to convince the local police of Vav taluka that my son had abducted their daughter”, the complaint said, adding, “As a result, my younger son, Lakhiram Khemji Pandya, and my younger brother, Ramesh Gordhanbhai Pandya, were kept in police lockup illegally for three days – December 14 to 16, 2013 – without any charges. They were psychologically tortured. The cops in charge even threatened them that our houses would be burnt in case the boy married the girl.”
“On December 18”, the complaint said, “We received a true copy of the marriage certificate showing that Kishorkumar had married Vimla in a Vadodara court. This aggravated things, further fuelling the already charged atmosphere. The upper caste persons came to our house with armed with lathis and knives, and declared that nobody in the village would, now onwards, keep any relations with our family members. We were threatened social boycott, and asked to leave. Their intentions seemed clear – to attack us.”
“Out of fear, all of us, men, women and children, were forced to run for our life”, the complaint said, adding, “For the last four months, we have not been able to return to our houses. We have been told that our houses have been bugged. The locks were broken and our valuables looted. We made a complaint to Vav police station with PSI on April 13, 2014 at 5 pm. We were told that we would be informed about the progress within two days. We would want you to use your influence to ensure that we are given justice.”
The complaint ends by asking: “If our son has decided to go ahead with an inter-caste marriage, how is the family to be blamed for it? Why are we facing social boycott for no reason? We would request you to ensure that we are able live a normal life at our house, without any fear, and feel secure. In case no action is taken, we would be forced to migrate in front of the district headquarters.” Meanwhile, Ahmedabad’s Navsarjan Trust, a Dalit organization, has received the letter and has begun to pursue the case.

No comments: