ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Punishing Dalit Assertiveness

Maharashtra's shamefullist of atrocities against dalits is growing.

In the past couple of months, four dalits including a 17-year-old boy have been murdered in Maharashtra and a 50-year-old man set aflame because their actions displeased the dominant upper castes in their respective villages. Had these crimes not occurred either in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections or the forthcoming state assembly elections, they would have got even less attention. As for example, the social boycott that the dalits in Buldhana district’s Belad village had been facing since last year until a few weeks ago. The murder of teenager Nitin Aage on 28 April galvanised the dalit minister in the state cabinet, Nitin Raut, to tour all the “trouble spots” with the chairperson of the Maharashtra Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes Commission. The Dalit Atyachar Virodhi Kruti Samiti has claimed that Ahmednagar district alone accounts for 102 atrocities against dalits in the last five years. The minister too presented a long list of crimes against them and asked for a special cabinet meeting that resulted in the usual declarations of monetary compensation and assurance of action. Despite all this, media coverage of even the brutal murders has been poor and sporadic, and the protests by dalit and human rights groups muted, to put it mildly. The misery suffered by the dalit villagers, especially children, due to the boycott has also got scant coverage in the media.

Aage’s murder in Khardaa village of Ahmednagar district has all the hallmarks of a “textbook” dalit atrocity. His parents are poor wage labourers; the accused, belonging to the dominant Maratha caste, are rich and politically very well connected; the police are less than enthusiastic about giving out information and Aage was punished for committing a cardinal sin: he dared to speak to a girl of a higher caste from an influential family despite being warned not to. On 25 April, a Matang youth, Umesh Aagle, was waylaid and murdered by men of the dominant caste in Deopur, Aurangabad district, on suspicion of having a relationship with a girl from their family. These deaths simply add to a growing trend wherein dalit youth, particularly those who are educated and ignore “their place” in the social hierarchy by attempting to interact with women from the so-called higher castes, are targeted with incredible cruelty.

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