To defuse caste tension at Bhagana village in the district, the panchayat on Wednesday demolished a wall around a chowk that remained the bone of contention between the so-called upper and lower castes of the village for more than a year.
In May last year, nearly 125 families of landless Dalit agricultural labourers, who were the victims of social boycott, had left their homes and camped outside the mini-secretariat in protest against the Jats' move to construct the wall that restricted the entry to some of the Dalit houses. Their other grouses included "encroachment" of shamlat land (village common land) by land-owning Jats.
District Congress Committee (DCC) member Dharamvir Goyat convinced the panchayat to break the wall and leave the chowk for common use. A 21-member committee of the village, comprising all communities, led by Goyat called on chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and apprised him of the demolition to resolve the issue.
A section of Dalits, however, is not ready to accept that all is well in the village as their demands have been left unaddressed. "No doubt, the wall around the chowk has been demolished but our main demands are pending. The indignant behaviour of Jats has hurt our self-esteem.
Those who imposed social boycott on the Dalit community should be booked under the Schedules Castes and Scheduled Tribes Act," said Haryana Kumhar Mahasabha president Virender Bagoriya, who along with nearly 40 Dalits is continuing the demonstration outside the mini-secretariat. They have been camping at the district headquarters since May last year.
Their other demands include that playground in the village should be restored to its old status, encroachments on the shamlat land be removed and the government should allot 100-yard plots to Dalits who had paid Rs. 1,000 for it, said Bagoriya who has been spearheading the agitation. Goyat said, "Majority of Dalits have returned to the village. Only a few, who have a political agenda, are trying to keep the issue alive."
The Congress leader said that on Wednesday, Hooda announced about Rs. 10-crore grants for village roads, reservoir for drinking water and sports stadium, and wished that members of both communities maintained 'bhaichara' (fraternity) in the village.