A man was arrested on Saturday over the death of four people during a bloody clash in Rajasthan’s Nagaur district, where Jats used tractors to flatten the homes of Dalits and allegedly thrashed several women following a sudden flare-up over a decades-old land dispute.
Officials said the situation in Dangawas village, where the Jats and Dalits clashed on Thursday, was slowly returning to normal.
Twenty policemen were deployed in the village, located 250 km east of state capital Jaipur, to instill confidence among residents, Superintendent of police Raghvendra Suhasa said.
Ram Kumar Jat, 40, was arrested by police at Nagaur hospital, where he was admitted for treatment, Suhasa said. State home minister Gulab Chand Kataria said all the accused would be arrested soon.
After visiting Dangawas on Saturday evening, National Commission for Scheduled Castes chairman PL Punia indicted the Nagaur district administration for laxity in handling the clash.
“The victims were not happy with the police inquiry. I will ask the government for a probe by an independent agency,” Punia told Hindustan Times. He said the violence began as an individual dispute but snowballed into a caste clash because the administration failed to act.
A team from the Centre for Dalit Rights in Jaipur also visited the village and met people injured in the clash who are being treated in a hospital in Ajmer.
The violence was sparked by a dispute over 24 bighas of land between Chimnaram Jat and a Dalit man named Ratanram Meghwal.
Chimanram Jat claimed Meghwal’s ancestors had sold the plot to his family and that the Dalit family had encroached on the land. Both sides had filed cases in court.
Tensions spiked on Thursday morning when Chimanram Jat’s supporters began moving towards Meghwal’s home built on the disputed land. There was a pitched battle when a group tried to occupy the land, police said.
However, the Jats said they had sent two men to call the Dalits for a panchayat meeting organised to resolve the issue. The Jats alleged the Dalits fired at the two men, killing one Rampal Gosain. They added that this had triggered the clash.
Three Dalits – Ratanram Meghwal, Pokaram Meghwal and Pancharam Meghwal – also died.
Bhanwari Meghwal, who sustained multiple fractures in the clash, alleged the Jats thrashed the Dalits, molested women, flattened their home with tractors and even tried to crush them under the tractors.
She claimed one person was crushed by a tractor but police denied this. Police officials said three Dalits were beaten to death while 13 more were injured.
The injured were admitted to the government hospital in Ajmer, where doctors described the condition of one person as serious.
Members of the Dalit community also alleged that the Jat men had assaulted Dalit women and tried to insert rods in their genitals. However, police officers and doctors treating the women denied this claim.
Suhasa said the dead were cremated on Friday. He contended the violence was not the outcome of a caste clash.
“The accused include Meghwals as well as Jats. FIRs have been registered against 12 persons, eight of them Jats and two Meghwals,” he said.
Nagaur collector Vishal Rajan said all the victims would be given compensation on Monday. He said police had been deployed in the hospital in Ajmer where relatives of deceased Ratanram Meghwal are being treated.
The village with a population of 15,000 is dominated by Jats but also has about 4,000 Dalit families. There are proper roads and houses and agriculture is the main occupation.
We don’t have magic, says minister
Rajasthan home minister Gulab Chand Kataria, known for his slips of the tongue, made another acerbic statement on Saturday.
Talking to reporters in Udaipur, Kataria said, “Police does not have a magic (wand) that they (the accused in Dangawas) can be arrested immediately. Police are searching for the accused and they will be arrested soon.”
During the spate of suicides by farmers after widespread crop losses due to untimely rains, Kataria had said in the state assembly that if farmers commit suicide by hanging themselves, they will not get relief and compensation from the government.