Bid to stifle Dalit protest in Bihar

Arun Srivastava

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s convoy was stoned in Nandan village of Dumraon block during his tour to the village as part of his state-wide VikasSamikshaYatra.The police put the blame on dalits, which is considered a tactical ploy to shield the local legislator who has allegedly been the brain behind the incident.
Dalits of the area have been feeling aggrieved at the discrimination against them and raising this issue before the local government officials. But as has been the practice at the block level, the BDO, the district police officials or the bureaucrats never took their requests seriously.Even in the matter of undertaking development works in the villages, the dalit settlement and ghettos were ignored.
While senior officials and bureaucrats in Patna are in favour of taking stringent action against the “culprits,” no one is willing to speak about the legislator’s involvement. The dalits have been feeling alienated and disillusioned with the government attitude. On that particular day, there was no stone pelting; they were simply raising slogans. While Kumar escaped unharmed, the incident raised question marks over his security: how easily some villagers mounted the attack.
Usually the feudal Bihar police does not allow dalits access to VIPs. They are kept at the periphery. What is intriguing is the abject silence of Nitish Kumar. This has given rise to the conjectures that at some level he also shares the police version that the attack was launched by the dalits.
At least 28 persons, including 10 women, have so far been arrested in connection with the attack. Five FIRs have been registered against 99 named and 500-700 unnamed persons. Senior RJD leader Jagdanand Singh, who visited Nandan village, accusedthe government of unleashing a reign of terror on the dalits. Many of the dalit youths have fled the village for fear of police reprisal.As if not satisfied with its action, the police took out a flag march in the village after the incident and inspected the location where the convoy was attacked.
With the social situation deteriorating in the area due to the reckless police action, SharadYadav has demanded a probe by a sitting Patna High Court judge into the attack on Nitish’s convoy. The rebel group accused the Nitish Kumar government of torturing dalits, including women at Nandan village, and said the attack was a fallout of the anger in the community, deprived of development in their hamlet.
A team from Sharad's group, including disqualified RajyaSabha MP Ali Anwar, visited Nandan village. They alleged that no women police were present when cops arrested women from the dalittola of the village. They also cited this as the first case in Bihar where dalits have been tortured in a planned way. Nitish was not even hurt in the attack. Ever since he has joined hands with the BJP, atrocities on dalits have increased manifold. Nitish's mentality has changed toward the downtrodden people. To appease the RSS, Nitish is torturing dalits - not just the men but women as well, they said.
Meanwhile, former chief minister and a prominent NDA partner Jitan Ram Manjhi accused the Nitish government and its police of perpetrating atrocities on dalits in the aftermath of the attack on the chief minister's convoy.
Manjhi, the founder-president of HAMS, will seek time from Nitish to demand immediate action to provide relief to the victims belonging to the Scheduled Castes. He demanded that the real culprits should be nabbed instead of torturing and harassing innocent dalits. He warned that if this was not done, they will protest with dharna, demonstrations and may call a meeting of dalits from all over the state at Nandan village.
In their fact finding report, the eight-member team of HAMS SC cell alleged that the cops went to the dalit hamlets after 10pm and misbehaved with residents. It alleged that women were dragged outside and then taken to the police station around midnight, which was illegal as the law prohibits police from taking them to the police station in such cases at night. No women constables were present when this was done. Around 10 to 12 women are still missing, it said..
Manjhi has questioned Nitish’s claim of carrying out development in the dalit hamlets. Around 150 families of Dusadh, Mushar and Ravidas castes live on one side of the road and virtually no development work has happened in their hamlets. Families of other castes reside across the road, where some development work has been done.
He even blamed the local JDU MLA, DadanYadav, and mukhiya Rajiv Pathak for the discrimination in the development work. Manjhi added: "The dalits were excited by Nitish's visit and wanted him to show the ground reality. The mukhiya and the MLA tried to avoid this by pushing and threatening the dalits, which led to stone-pelting. But the ire of the dalits was directed not towards the CM, but towards the mukhiya and the MLA, who happens to be close to RJD chief Lalu Prasad." According to Manjhi, the report reveals that all young men and women in the dalit hamlets have either fled or been arrested, with only children, elderly and cattle remaining; and they are starving for several days. (IPA)

Wednesday, 31 January, 2018