Dalits leave village fearing Jat threat
Nearly a dozen Dalit families have left this village in the last 15 days as last year's violence in Mirchpur has come back to haunt them. It was here that a 70-year-old and his physically-challenged daughter were killed in an attack by the dominant Jat community.
The fear of violence from Jats, who have over the past 12 days staged protests demanding the release of those arrested for the incident in April 2010, looms over Dalit families here despite repeated assurances from the state government and police.
"The state government has failed to punish the culprits accused of an arson attack on Dalit families in April last year. The government is playing votebank politics and does not want to offend the Jat community as they are in a majority in Haryana," Gulab Singh, a Dalit resident of Mirchpur village, told IANS.
Around 300 Dalit families, among the most socio-economically marginalised people, live in Mirchpur.
"We have lost all faith in the police and the government. Leave aside the question of staying in Mirchpur, we do not want to live anywhere in Haryana. We make an appeal before the government to rehabilitate us somewhere outside this state," stated Singh.
Mirchpur village in Hisar district hit the headlines last year when some people from the dominant upper caste Jat community set fire to a row of houses belonging to Dalit families.
A 70-year-old man and his 18-year-old physically-challenged daughter were killed in the April 21 arson attack and at least 18 houses were destroyed. Around 150 Dalit families were driven out of the village, about 300 km from Chandigarh, and their homes were torched.
"We are still getting threats from Jats. They are pressurising us to take back our complaints," Sheela, another Dalit, who is camping outside Mirchpur village with her family, told IANS.
"The government is not doing enough for our security and we have decided to leave Hisar district. Our children are also afraid of working in places where they have Jat colleagues."
"We are afraid caste violence will raise its head in our village again," said Sheela.
In the Mirchpur violence case, 98 Jat youths were arrested and are in jail in New Delhi. The trial of the case was shifted to New Delhi in December following the directions of the Supreme Court.
Jat community members have staged widespread protests in various parts of Haryana, demanding the release of the arrested youths and shifting of the case back to Hisar.
"If the Jats claim they are innocent, then why are they demanding the shifting of the case from New Delhi to Hisar. We want our government to take a stern stand," asked Sheela.
Ved Pal Tanwar, a representative of the Non-Jat Association, Haryana, told IANS, "So far the state government has failed to ensure the safety of the Dalit families of Mirchpur. They have given only verbal assurances of safety and jobs, but actually nothing has happened. They are left with no option than to leave Mirchpur."
"We have made staying arrangements for nearly a score of Dalit families outside Hisar district as they are afraid of the Jats. We are planning to launch a widespread campaign to save the rights and dignity of Haryana's Dalits," said Tanwar.