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Dalit political activist's murder: caste hatred ignored in 'devbhumi' Uttarakhand

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat* 

The murder of Jagadish Chandra, a political activist from Uttarakhand, due to his marriage to a savarna caste Rajput girl is simply outrageous and a crime against humanity. The state of Uttarakhand might not have much crime record, but caste discrimination and untouchability are still prevalent in the state and Dalits live a life under deep pressure, as they are in a minority in the state.
Dalit issues never become mainstream in the state, and even political parties desist from raising them. Social movements in Uttarakhand often keep the issue aside and speak in a sweeping generalization way, as if the mountains don’t have a caste system or untouchability.
You don’t need to go to far. Just visit about 30-40 kilometres from the state capital Dehradun to the Jaunsar region, which is actually 'termed' as scheduled area for 'tribes', and you will find how caste discrimination is so powerful that Dalits are not even allowed to pray in the temples.
Almora is one of the most powerful districts of Uttarakhand, where various social movements have emerged. The Dalit movement too emerged here under the stewardship of Munshi Hari Prasad Tamta, who supported Baba Saheb Ambedkar in the roundtable conference, but the Brahminical mainstream of Uttarakhand rarely speaks about Tamta.
The Brahmin-Thakur binary in Uttarakhand ignores the rights of the Dalits as an independent and autonomous community. They take their own decision on the participation of Dalits-Adivasis in the political, social and cultural life. Even the issue of reservation is highly sensitive in Uttarakhand. The movement for separate states got momentum here after the Mandal report was reluctantly accepted to be implemented in Uttarakhand.
The murder of Jagadish Chandra is not an incident confine to Uttarakhand, neither is the state any different in terms of caste discrimination from the rest of the country. The dirty fact is that India is united when it comes to caste prejudice and cultural hatred towards Dalits and Adivasis.
Pushkar Singh Dhami, Uttarakhand CM
We recently saw how a Jharkhand Adivasi woman was tortured by a Brahminical elite and got wide media attention. Cases of violence against Dalits and Adivasis are happening everywhere. But while in most other states they get highlighted, in Uttarakhand this is not the case. The state’s intellectual elite would suggest as if they are living in an alien world where caste discrimination does not happen and everybody lives in great harmony.
The Uttarakhand government must take strict action against the thugs and goons who killed Jagadish Chandra. The girl who fell in love with him was living with her stepfather, and her step brothers never treated her with respect. They probably treated her like a domestic servant. How powerful is the ‘jaati’ concept can be gauged from the fact that that the girl wasn’t treated well in her family, yet faced resistance when she took an independent decision about her life.
The Almora police must respond as to why it did not act when the girl complained that her life and that of Jagadish Chandra was in danger. Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami would do well to focus on the crime and order the police to act decisively.
Will people come to the streets for the honour and life of the girl who lost her husband? Will women of Uttarakhand rise up against this shameless and barbaric killing of a man just because he married the woman he loved?
It is caste hatred. It must be condemned with a call for total annihilation of castes. All talk of the state as #devbhumi are bogus unless we clean our heart and embrace everyone without prejudice based on caste and religion. Uttarakhand should not allow such caste violence to happen if it wishes to be called a civilised state.
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*Human rights defender. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/vbrawat. Twitter: @freetohumanity

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