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Monday, Oct 21, 2019

An attack, an unintended victim and two divided communities

The death of Virmaram, a resident of Sata village in Barmer, has led to polarization of two communities in Rajasthan — Jats and Charans.

jaipur Updated: Nov 12, 2017 21:01 IST
Mukesh Mathrani
Mukesh Mathrani
Hindustan Times
The recent protest by the Jat community  over Virmaram’s death in Barmer.
The recent protest by the Jat community over Virmaram’s death in Barmer. (HT File Photo )

It was on April 2, 2016 that Virmaram, a resident of Sata village in Barmer district was allegedly attacked by four people. A badly injured Virmaram was taken to hospital and an FIR was registered against four named accused the next day.

Virmaram died on September 24 this year during treatment, eighteen months after the attack. His death would have been written off as just another statistic in the annual crime record of the state, but for the fact that the attack on him had a political angle and that it was allegedly masterminded by a member of Charan community. Virmaram belonged to Jat community.

The victim Virmaram.
The victim Virmaram. ( HT file photo )

Now, politics, first over the attack on him, and now on his death has led to polarization of the two communities— Jats and Charans. Both the communities, led by political leaders, have already exhibited their show strength taking to roads over what has now come to be known as the “Sata episode”. Both have issued warning about bigger and intense protests if their demands were not met.

Spread just over 971 hectares, Sata is a village located along the Indo-Pak border under Chohtan block of Barmer district. Home to around 2,200 people, the village is also a gram panchayat, an election to the same allegedly being the root cause behind the murder.

Leela Kanwar, wife of Tejdan Charan, a resident of Sata village, won the sarpanch election defeating her nearest rival Tuggi Devi, wife of Bankaram Jat, a resident of neighbouring Rangwali village. Later, Bankaram lodged a complaint against Leela Kanwar alleging that she had contested the election by submitting fake documents. The complaint turned into a prestige issue, creating a rift among the Charans and the Jats in the area.

A protest rally by the Charan community. photo- ht
A protest rally by the Charan community. photo- ht ( HT file photo )

When that attack took place on April 2, 2016, Bankaram was allegedly the prime target. He was accompanied by Virmaram and Prabhuram. While the other two sustained minor injuries, Virmaram bore the brunt of the attack and was rushed to the hospital with critical head injury. It was alleged that the attack was planned by Tejdan Charan. A case was filed a day later naming four accused — Maheshdan, Jasdan, Karnidan and Goridan — at Bakhasar police station under Sections 147, 148, 341, 323, 307 and 149 of IPC.

The FIR didn’t mention the name of Tejdan Charan. Jat community has been alleging that it was under political pressure that police did not lodge any case against Tejdan.

Even as politicking began over the attack and the FIR, the investigation changed hands at least five times --- beginning with the Bakhasar police station to being handed to the Crime Investigation Department-Crime Branch (CB-CID, which is currently probing the case.

Meanwhile, Virmaram died on September 24.

Following his death, Jat community intensified the protest, demanding that Tejdan Charan be booked under Section 302 and arrested. On October 5, they organized a protest led by BJP MP Col Sonaram Choudhary at district headquarters. Stating that community had strength in numbers, Choudhary warned that if immediate action was not taken against the accused, “they won’t think twice before going violent”. The community once again organised protests at various blocks in Barmer on October 16.

A week later, on October 23, Jats organized another massive protest at Barmer city. Apart Sonaram Choudhary, former MP and Congress national secretary Harish Choudhary also joined the protest attended by thousands from the community. They also handed over a memorandum to the district collector in the name of chief minister stating that if no action was taken against the accused by November 15, “the community will be forced to adopt violet measures”.

Following the Jat protests, the Charan community too showcased their strength with a massive demonstration at district headquarters on October 30. Prominent leaders of Rajput community extended their support. Apart from this, leaders of Rajpurohit, Prajapat, minority and many others also joined hands with Charans. A huge number of Charan community members from Gujarat too reached Barmer to lend muscle to the agitation.

Among others, former MLA and national president of Akhil Bhartiya Charan (Gadhvi) Mahasabha C D Deval, national president of Rajput Karni Sena Sukhdev Singh Gogamedi, Rajpurohit community leader Ram Singh Bothiya, minority leader Maulwi Abdul Kareem, Prajapat community leader Balram Prajapat and prominent Rajput leaders Hari Singh Sodha, Rajendra Singh Bhiyand, Roop Singh Rathore, Ratan Singh Bhakhasar attended and addressed the gathering of the Charan community. BJP leader and Sheo MLA Manvendra Singh could not attend the demonstration but extended his support to the Charans.

The Charan community has warned the government against “any action against innocent people under any political pressure”. They also warned that “undue favor to any community” will force them to adopt violent means.

Khetaram Choudhary, a Jat leader, who led the community protest, says, “We are not protesting against any community or creating pressure (on government). We are demanding justice for the man from our community who was killed over a minor dispute. He was the only earning member in his family and his death has created starvation-like situation for the family. His only son, who was studying in Class 8, had been forced to quit school.”

“One should not look at this from caste angle, as we are only demanding justice.”

Rajendra Singh Bhiyand, a social activist who joined hands with the Charan community, says that some political leaders were instigating both the parties for violence. “Such a practice is not good and hence we are opposing it. We favour fair investigation and demand that no innocent should be victimized,” he added.

Incidentally, local BJP MP Col (retd) Sonaram Choudhary has warned of “dire consequences” if justice is denied and action not taken against culprits. He claims that “some people are intentionally doing caste politics to deprive justice to the victim”.

Hitting out at Rajput Karni Sena, Choudhary alleged that Gogamedi, the outfit’s chief, was indulging in caste politics. Stating that “every action has an equal and opposite reaction,” Choudhary warns that “if such people were not stopped,” he would be forced to “form a Kisaan Sena or a Teja Sena to teach them a lesson”.

The face-off between the two communities has complicated the situation for political parties, especially as the assembly polls are scheduled in the state late next year. Jats constitute around 20 per cent of the vote bank in Barmer-Jaisalmer region. On the other hand, Rajputs, Charans, Rajpurohits, Prajapats and Rana Rajputs together make up for another 25 per cent of the total voter base. Ignoring any one group can cost the political parties dear.

The issue found resonance in Assembly too. Last month, replying to a question related to the killing of Virmaram, state home minister Gulab Chand Kataria had confirmed that case was being investigated by CID-CB and that two accused have already been arrested.

First Published: Nov 12, 2017 21:01 IST

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