KHAIRLANJI VERDICT DOES NOT RECOGNISE CASTE ATROCITY
We strongly condemn the September 15, 2008 verdict by the trial court in Bhandara which has absolved all the accused of conviction under the Scheduled Castes & Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. In a complete travesty of justice the court even refused to convict any of the 11 accused (chargesheeted out of a total of 46) of charges under Section 354 of the IPC which refers to assault or criminal force with intent to outrage the modesty of a woman.
On 26th September 2006, in a ghastly and barbaric instance of caste violence, four members of Bhaiyyalal Bhotmange family, including his wife Surekha, his daughter and two sons were killed brutally by caste hindu men and women of the village. Before killing them, mother and daughter were humiliated by being parading naked by the caste hindu mob. The wife and daughter were also gangraped in full public view. Even prior to this incident, the Bhotmange family was socially and economically harassed by the upper caste landed interests in the village for a number of years. The small amount of land that they had was also sought to be taken away from them using caste-based coercion. It was resistance against this tyranny of caste hindus that led to this beastly and inhuman incident.
Despite all of this, the trial court has held that the incident had nothing to do with caste oppression. In holding this the court has, shockingly and blatantly, refused to consider eyewitness accounts and a vast amount of circumstantial evidence. It has also turned a blind eye to the reports of a large number of fact finding missions. The PUCL report, for example, states that “the brutal violence was accompanied by deliberate display of an extreme degree of caste prejudice. Photographs of Baba Saheb Ambedkar in people’s homes were broken and widespread caste based insults were freely employed...there was a deliberate attempt to teach the Dalit community trying to assert themselves, a lesson”.
The Khairlanji atrocity is a cruel reminder of the plight of Dalits in the country. The shocking part of the entire episode is how the entire structure of law callously sought to cover up this terrible crime. The mainstream media was also complicit in pushing this gruesome episode under the carpet.
Let us join hands to expose and fight the horrible caste prejudices that still run rife throughout the country. Let us pledge to bring justice to countless victims of caste violence and discrimination in India.
– An Initiative by A Concerned Group of Students at TISS
Entry filed under: discussion.