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Himachal Dalit RTI activist's murder "reflects" on Congress, BJP indifference in protecting marginalized sections

By Sheshu Babu*
When marginalised and Dalit sections of society are being hounded from almost every quarter, the brutal murder of a Dalit Right to Information (RTI) activist comes as another shock and ghastly incident. Kedar Singh Jindan was allegedly murdered on Friday, September 7, while he was on his way back home. The RTI activist was first attacked and run over by a Scorpio.
Days after the alleged murder of the Dalit RTI activist in Himachal Pradesh's Sirmaur District, his family has demanded a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) inquiry into the matter. Meanwhile, the slain activist's wife and daughter have shifted to Shimla under pressure. Initially it thought of as an accident, the police later registered a case of murder against the SUV owner and Up-Pradhan (vice chief) of Bakras gram panchayat, Jai Prakash and Gopal Singh under section 302 of IPC. The outrage over inaction of police made them arrest the accused on September 8.
In June, Kedar had exposed fraud in the list of families living below poverty line (BPL) and claimed that 6 families related to panchayat people got government jobs using fake BPL certificates. He was a social worker and a Dalit leader. According to reports, his wife Hem Lata has accused that more than two in the village Bharkas are involved in the murder of her husband. She said that he was first beaten up and his head crushed under a vehicle.
Kedar was a social activist who consistently raised issues of atrocities on backward class by upper castes. He also contested for the elections on Bahujan Samaj Party and Nationalist Congress Party tickets but lost all the three times. The 43-year-old activist had accused Jai Prakash (now arrested) of forging documents and records using his position.
Kedar was a lawyer and struggled to complete his education. He used to run an education academy to train young students in Shilai. Over the years, he emerged as a voice of the 'Koli' ( Scheduled Caste) community. He used RTI to uncover issue of corruption and development programs in the region.
While the police claim that the case has been solved and the accused confessed the crime, shocking revelations were made by a seven-member team of state and national social workers, human rights defenders and activist and others. Meanwhile, the incident has taken a political colour.
The fact-finding team found that caste discrimination was quite prevalent in the region. Kedar Singh was brutally beaten for supporting inter-caste marriage in the Shillai region. The murder was pre- planned and executed in public view. Despite a public scene, only two came forward as witness due to fear.
The team visited Paab, the village in Shilai block from where Jindan hailed on September 13 and offered its condolences to the family. It interacted with family members, the panchayat officials and police. The team noted with concern that police response was inadequate when his family complained of threats from local upper caste people. After the expose of fake BPL fraud, the relatives lost jobs. They nursed hatred against him and even attacked him before. But he survived the attack. No action was taken and no protection was provided despite appeals for protection.
The ruling party and the government did not condemn the incident. As the fact-finding team observed, the silence of local MLA is a matter of concern. Even opposition Congress did not mince a single word on the murder of RTI activist by upper caste people. Party spokesman Naresh Chauhan said that his party is with the victim but he showed ignorance over the silence of the senior party members on the issue.
While Dalit activists and organisations are staging protests, apathy from mainstream parties is deplorable. After criticism, the All-India Congress Committee general secretary Rajni Patil sought report from the local MLA about the murder.
Only CPI(M) MLA Rakesh Singha and the Ravidas Mahasabha convener Karamchand Bhatia forced government to hand over the case to SIT and demanded Rs 20 lakh compensation to the bereaved family.
This reflects the failure of political system in protecting Dalits and their social activists who investigate and points towards exploitation of upper castes.
---
*The writer from anywhere and everywhere is concerned with issues relating to humanity and equality

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