Four-year-old Radha (name changed) hops around playfully. Her sheepish smile is one which you will see on any other child of her age, but it hides the pain of having been raped.
Last month, Pratap (name changed), a Rajput boy of the same village as Radha, took her to a pond behind their school and raped her. A boy from their school saw the incident and reported the matter to Radha’s father who came running with his wife. They confronted Pratap’s family, but were snubbed.
Later, prompted by members of their community, Radha’s father filed an FIR and admitted her to a hospital where she underwent treatment for five days.
Pratap was arrested but released a day later on bail, as he was a minor.
Police said he is 9 years and 2 months old. “Technical problem,” a senior police officer said.
Meanwhile, Pratap’s family continued to threaten Radha’s family.
“They say ‘We haven’t done anything yet, but see what we’ll do. We’ll rape your other two daughters also.’ I stopped sending my daughters to school out of fear,” Radha’s father said.
He added that the accused’s family also told them that they would “bribe every place Dalits seek justice from”.
Now, along with her parents and hundreds of fellow Dalits, the little girl waits outside the office of Barmer collector. The wait is for justice.
Watch | Dalits camp at Barmer collector’s office seeking justice
Located on the western border of the country, Barmer has a history of caste-based atrocities. Crimes against Dalits are rampant. In the past three months, more than 20 cases have been registered in the district alone.
Sudhindra Kumar, who hails from Barmer and is pursuing his MPhil from Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, says the oppression of Dalits is historical.
“Dalits still live under extreme terror. The moment a Dalit lodges an FIR against the dominant castes, his life becomes an ordeal. They (the upper castes) issue threats, they beat you, wreck your houses, try to kill you,” he said.
“I am an educated person and can go anywhere, but those who have to stay in the village are helpless,” he observed.
The number of cases of crime against registered have increased, Kumar said, noting that “Dalits have started speaking up. Things are changing. But to crush their spirits, the dominant castes have increased their atrocities.”
“The worst part is the dismissive attitude of the police,” he stressed, claiming that the dominant castes and the police have a nexus. “Police always tries to protect the perpetrators.”
Another woman, of the nomadic Kalbeliya community, was raped this month in Chohatan by Madan, a Rajput, and Matiya, a Muslim.
Police arrested the two men and said that the chargesheet will be presented within ten days.
However, the kin of the accused have held the woman’s husband hostage and are threatening her, asking her to withdraw the case.
Udaram Meghwal, of Dalit Atyachar Nivaran Samiti, said the accused in the case are powerful people and the police have been shielding them.
“Police is indifferent to the atrocities against Dalits. Manuvaadi (caste system) mindset and inaction of the administration has resulted in unchecked crimes against Dalits,” he said.
Sumar Ram of Bawdi Kala, Chohatan, is another victim of caste-based violence. Bearing scars on his forehead, cheek and head, he says he was attacked by a dozen Rajputs on August 6, for protesting the forced ploughing of his land.
Sumar’s two brothers too were attacked and his house razed down by the same men in an attempt to occupy their land.
An ASI of police, Achla Ram, who intervened sustained a head injury. “Had it not been for his intervention, they would have killed us,” said Sumar Ram.
Police have arrested 9 of the 12 named in the FIR. “The action in this case was swift because a policeman was attacked,” said one of the men at the protest.