Biswajeet Banerjee | The News Minute | June 29, 2014 | 11:23 AM IST
A recent incident has exposed the caste fault line in Uttar Pradesh when a dalit woman was stripped and forced to walk naked in the village and her husband was brutally beaten up in Pilibhit, in teria region. It is because they objected to construction of a hutment in their land by people of the upper caste.
The incident took place on June 23 but an FIR was lodged on June 28, that too after the victim, locals and some social organisations staged protests outside the Jehanabad police station on the night of June 27.
According to reports, Hemraj, a resident of Andrayan village had a dispute over a piece of land with Shanti Swaroop of the same village. Swaroop had erected a fence around the land and constructed a hutment. Hemraj objected to it and asked Swaroop to remove the same. Hemraj said that government had given him the land under one of its schemes.
Infuriated over the objection Swaroop and his associates attacked Hemraj. When his wife intervened, she was stripped naked and was forced to parade naked in the streets of the village.
Some social organisations including Bondhu Mahal, when came to know about the incident, they took the wife to the Superintendent of Police Sonia Singh, and after her intervention an FIR was lodged. No one has been arrested so far.
Secretary of Bondhu Mahal, Himanshu Acharya said that the incident is a stark reminder of the prevailing caste discrimination in our society. The woman was paraded naked in the village and no one intervened because the perpetrator of crime belonged to upper caste and runs schools in the surrounding area.
“What could be more shameful that despite the SP’s intervention no has been arrested so far,” he said.
Incidents of caste conflicts still prevail in Uttar Pradesh, a home to 200 million people. The Badaun gang rape in which two cousins were raped, murdered and their bodies were hanged from a tree too has a reflection of caste conflict. Yadavs, the intermediary caste, dominate the political spectrum of the region. The village Katra is part of Badaun district, a high profile constituency which is represented by Dharmendra Yadav, nephew of Mulayam Singh Yadav. It is one of the four constituencies in Uttar Pradesh that were won by Yadav clan in this Lok Sabha election. The girls belong to Shakya community – the most backward caste – who work as labourers in the fields of dominating castes like Yadavs and Thakurs of that region.
The most gruesome factor is that untouchability is still practiced and not just among the so-called upper caste and lower castes, but also among various marginalised communities too. While the numerically stronger communities among OBCs and dalits are vocal politically, the condition of those who do not possess numbers is pathetic to say the least. In the din of the politics of identity, these communities are left to fetch for themselves, Vidya Bhushan Rawat, a social and human right activist, wrote in an essay Untouchability, which is still widely practiced in Uttar Pradesh.
He says politically conscious dalits will never accept untouchability and caste discrimination. Yet the social structure in the village has not changed so far. “The struggles for land and forest rights are foiled by the powerful caste lobbies,” Rawat said.
Dr S.P. Pandey of Pr Govind Pant Institute of Social Studies in Rural Development said in last decade or two dalits have got political voice with emergence of Mayawati. But this political empowerment is limited only to a small section who are politically conscious. It has failed to percolate down, he added.