Village steeped in untouchability, say family of Dalit children killed in Madhya Pradesh
Families of two Dalit children killed for defecating in the open in Shivpuri district of Madhya Pradesh on Wednesday, say the accused nurtured hatred towards the victims’ family and practiced untouchability and a rigid caste system.
The two minors, Roshni, 12, and Avinash, 10, students of class 7 and class 5, were defecating in open on the roadside in the vicinity of the house of the accused Hakim Yadav and Rameshwar Yadav, both brothers, when the latter objected to and filmed their act on their mobile phones and then beat them up with lathis killing them on the spot. Both the accused were later arrested for the murder of the two kids who were related.
The violence took place at village Bhavkhedi, hardly 25 kilometers from the district headquarters.
“About 15 days back the accused didn’t allow us to fetch water from their tube-well in their agriculture field and scolded us and abused our caste. Untouchability is practiced in the entire village. The members of other backward classes (OBCs) to which the accused belong allow us to fetch water from the hand pump installed in the school premises only when they and other members of higher castes have fetched water from the hand pump in the morning”, said Santosh Balmiki, a member of the family.
A villager from this Yadav dominated village, who didn’t want to be named, said, “Since Balmiki caste is associated with scavenging, even the other Dalits in the village who come from Jatav caste practice untouchability against them.”
Director of MP Institute of Social Sciences, Ujjain Yatindra Singh Sisodia said, “Such violent incidents don’t happen on spur of the moment. Since Balmiki Samaj is on the lowest rung in the society they don’t have their voice to raise against atrocities against them. Minor incidents of atrocities might have happened in the past also against them but since they are considered as members of a lower caste even among Dalits they might not have had support from their own community, not to say of upper castes.”
Avinash’s father Manoj Balmiki said, “Since we are from a lower caste we are not allowed to work in their agriculture fields. For other works like beating drums or doing some other manual works during their social functions they want to give us about Rs 50 or so per day as wages while we should get at least Rs 100 to Rs 150. As we stopped working for them we were their usual targets for taunts and scolding for none of reasons.”
The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has demanded that the families of the two kids be evacuated and re-settled in a different location.
“The incident was related to untouchability and atrocities against Dalits. Hence, the family should be shifted from the village and given accommodation close to the city,” Ramakant Pippal, president of the state unit of the BSP said.
Earlier, Manoj Balmiki too said he and his other family members wanted to leave the village to settle at Shivpuri district headquarters or somewhere else.
Village sarpanch Suraj Singh Yadav admitted that he didn’t hire the Balmikis to work in his agriculture field or that of his community members but he didn’t give reasons for the decision. He also denied there is untouchability in the village.
“There is no reason behind their not working in our fields. There is no discrimination against them and there is no practice of untouchability on our part. Had it been so they would not have been allowed to settle in the village when they shifted here about 15 years back from some other village”, said the sarpanch.
Chief executive officer zila panchayat HP Verma said, “We didn’t receive any complaint from the village about any practice of discrimination or untouchability.”