For the past 374 days, Chatrabhai Savabhai hasn’t taken a break in his fight to get justice for his son. Even for his daughter’s wedding. She got married on Friday from the same shack in the compound of the Banaskantha District Collectorate in Palanpur that the 55-year-old has been living in for the past year, demanding that the upper-caste ”murderers” of his son be brought to book.
Chatrabhai moved into the shack the day a post-mortem on his son Easabhai blamed ”uncertain” causes for his death. Easabhai had gone missing three days earlier and his bloated, dismembered body had been found behind some bushes in Morikha village of Vav taluka, where the family lives.
”I will die here if I am not given justice but I will not move from here,” says Chatrabhai. ”Many Dalits are killed in our villages, but the upper caste killers go unpunished.”
Chatrabhai insists his son was done to death by some members of the dominant upper caste of the village, with whom he had had a fight, mentioning six names. On the day he disappeared, Easabhai had said he was going to another village with one of the men with whom the family has had a 15-year-old quarrel over a plot of land.
Chatrabhai points out that the post-mortem report said the left arm was missing, Easabhai’s eyeballs were out of their sockets, the lungs were blue and the second rib was fractured. ”And yet it says the cause of death was uncertain,” he says.
When his daughter Radhaben’s marriage was fixed, he decided it would be held in the shack. Some 50 Dalits gathered for the wedding on Friday, despite a ban on such gatherings in the collectorate compound. There was no music, no mehndi ritual. The bride wore a simple sari, and the baraat arrived just half an hour before the rituals began.
There was hardly any display of joy, with the ghost of Easabhai hanging over the ceremonies. Radhaben herself said: ”I am not excited at all. My marriage is being held here to bring my brother’s killing out in the open. How can I be happy?”
Collector M.K. Das, away to a shrine near Mt Abu on some “urgent work”, was unavailable for comment. But Deputy Collector M.B. Patel said Chatrabhai is being obstinate. ”We have found no evidence against the accused. It emerged that they were somewhere else when the alleged killing took place.”
Patel also alleges that Chatrabhai might be trying to get a more costly piece of land in compensation. ”He wants 10 acres of land, worth Rs 5 lakh, in another village against the Rs 5,000-worth plot we are offering in his own village in compensation.” About the wedding, Patel says: ”We tried to persuade him to hold the wedding in a hall, but he would not listen. But what difference will this (the marriage) make?”