“I heard her cries when the burning roof collapsed on her. How can I now befriend those who doused that roof with petrol? I will not sell my daughter’s body,” said Kamla Devi, who lost her husband and teenaged daughter in the caste based arson on April 21.
Kamla Devi’s sons on Friday refused Government jobs that the administration offered. The Dalits from Mirchpur village protesting outside the District Commissioner’s office in Hisar raised the demand of death penalty for the guilty. Holding the fort firmly, the crowd refused to return to the village until its demand of rehabilitation in a new establishment elsewhere, away from Mirchpur was satisfied.
Eighteen-year-old Suman, who suffered from polio, was trapped in her burning house and was charred to death while her 70-year-old father Tara Chand suffered 90 per cent burns, and died later, when over a dozen houses belonging to the Dalits were set ablaze allegedly by Jats of the same village. Kamla Devi, who faints each time she recalls the events which led to the death of her family members, says she wants nothing, and adds, “what can anyone give me now?”
Claiming that the Dalits have started to realize their collective strength, Krishna Duggal, national president of Akhil Bhartiya Dhanak Samaj, a dalit organization said: “We can not go back to the village where the police brazenly granted Jat an hour’s time to burn homes and the administration has not done anything. The arrests are merely an eye wash and soon the guilty will roam around free.”
Six teenage girls and three boys of Mirchpur, sitting on fast unto death outside, said the politicians are ‘passing time’. “No politicians supported the protest; giving cash compensation to one family will not rehabilitate the dalit families who lost their houses. It will not bring peace to the entire village. The guilty should be given death sentence. That is the only just verdict.”
Meanwhile, Jat representatives of the village visited the District Commissioner and requested that the administration helps bridge the rift so that, “the villagers can live in brotherhood again.” “We all condemn the events and are ashamed of the anti-social elements in the village. But we assure our Valmiki brothers that their life and property will be valued, so they should return to the village,” said Devar Tom Prakash.
The Deputy Commissioner of Hisar, O.P Shaoran, said that despite administration’s attempts the protesters are adamant on not returning to their village. “The administration promptly provided them with security, ration and jobs but their demand for capital punishment (to the guilty) and land in a new village can not be granted the same way.”
In Mirchpur, 60 kms from Hisar, the burned houses stand testimony to the horrible tale that the few Dalit families left in the village detail. “This trunk had clothes that were being stored for her (Suman’s) wedding; this used to be the special handicapped cycle she used; these are burned pages of her books and that hole in the roof is right over the place where we found her body,” says a villager. Each of the over 18 homes has walls blackened by smoke.
“We lost many valuable items — water-coolers, washing machines, televisions, refrigerators and motorcycles; all were doused with petrol and set on fire. They identified houses of the well-off among the Dalit community and set them on fire first. It was an attempt to burn down whatever prosperity they saw,” said a traumatized women whose home was also destroyed.
The Jats term the arson as “a shameful act done by misguided youth,” but the Dalits are convinced that it was a pre-planned attack to curb their prosperity and kill them.
Cases have been registered against policemen who were present at the scene of the incident and allegedly helped the guilty.