Several Dalit women were assaulted and nearly all members of their village beaten up by upper caste landowners over a wage dispute in Uttar Pradesh. The Dalits were refusing to work for a wage of Rs 10 – which is much below the daily wage fixed by the government – when they were brutally assaulted in Bhaktakheda village in Unnao district of the state.
Rajaya Pal is inconsolable as he leaves the office of the Uttar Pradesh commissioner for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. His complaint alleges that the big landowners – mostly Yadavs – in his village Bhaktakheda in Unnao district killed his brother or March 31, physically assaulted two Dalit women and brutally beat up almost every Dalit in the village for their refusal to work as virtual bonded labourers.
“We were given Rs 10 for our labour daily but that was of no help. After we refused to work on the farms they beat me up and killed my brother. They hit everyone and said not to leave the harijans,” says Rajaya Pal.
The assailants broke down doors, dragged the men, women and children out of their houses. No one was spared as virtually every adult in the village has suffered some form of injury.
Kusuma, whose husband works as a rickshaw-puller in Kanpur, was attacked inside her house and her infant child thrown on the ground. Her sister-in-law received the same treatment as she tried to save her.
“I told the police that I had been raped but they dismissed it by saying that I was there only to create trouble. They said there was nothing and refused to register a case,” says Kusuma.
Oppression of Dalits is a tradition here. A few years ago, the daily wage was just Rs 5. Among the other regular indignities, Dalits are not allowed to use the village well and they have to vote for those favoured by the upper castes. Now Dalit men like Rajaya cannot even return to their village.
“We are setting up a temporary police post there. As far as the issue of not registering the rape case stands, we have transferred the SHO of the police station,” says Poornima Singh, superintendent of police, Unnao.
Just two moths ago, candidates of all political parties walked through the lanes of Bhaktakheda promising social justice. Most of the Dalits say that the March 31 incident is also a reprisal – because during the elections they voted for a candidate of their choice.
Rules of a democratic set up has little meaning in a place like Bhaktakheda where every election – be it local, for the state assembly or a parliamentary poll – only brings more discrimination and violence.
“In every election that takes place, whether it is local, for the assembly or Parliament elections we have to vote for their people otherwise they will kill us,” says Rajaya Pal.