“Dalits banned for social gatherings,” Harrowing incidents of violence against Dalits

Death threats for attending Garba in Gujarat; robbed, tortured urinated upon in Tamil Nadu: a saga of unending violence against Dalits continues unabatedly
Representation Image | cjp.org.in

A young Dalit man was recently attacked for attending a Garba venue in Gujarat. The 20-year-old Dalit man, Jitendra Parmar, who is from Sanakhurd village in Kheda taluka, has lodged a complaint with the Kheda town police, according to Times of India. Parmar alleges that he and several members of his community were brutally attacked by members of the Thakor community for a seemingly innocuous act – entering a garba venue. According to a report, Parmar has stated in the FIR that the incident took place on October 24, 2023.

The incident unfolded on October 24 when Jitendra Parmar decided to attend the garba festivities accompanied by his 11-year-old female cousin at Mahakali Chowk in his village. Little did he know that this simple act of joining in celebration of a festival would lead to a violent and harrowing experience. Parmar described the horrifying night, saying, “I was participating in the garba alone, and there was nobody around me. The accused, namely Naresh Chauhan, Arvind Chauhan, Vijat Chauhan, Amrut Chauhan, and Ramesh Gohel, all members of the Thakor community, approached me and started hurling abuses and harassing me.” This was followed by a vicious attack that left Jitendra bruised, broken and injured.

The attackers subjected Parmar to caste-based slurs and physical violence solely because he had entered the garba venue. Jitendra recalled the horrifying experience, saying, “They kept asking who had given me permission to enter their garba. When two members of my community tried to rescue me, the accused assaulted them as well.”

The attackers did not even spare Jitendra’s 11-year-old cousin, who was verbally harassed and subjected to caste-based slurs just as well. Furthermore, one of the attackers even issued a threat, warning Jitendra that he would be killed if he dared to attend another garba event. The accused reportedly belonged to the Thakur community.

The Kheda police have reportedly registered a case against the accused under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, including unlawful assembly, causing hurt, and criminal intimidation. Additionally, charges have been also filed under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

Furthermore, the TOI highlights that according to a Right to Information Act (RTI) application filed with the state government by activist Kaushik Parmar, there are out of the 129 villages in 12 districts that received police protection in 2022 following offences under the Atrocities Act and Kheda holds more than half of these villages, according to TOI report. Similarly, an uncle of Parmar whose daughter was subjected to slurs as well at the event has attested that this is not the first time Thakurs have attacked Dalits, and narrates that “In 2018, a Dalit boy was attacked for having a meal with boys of other communities during a marriage event.” He has also stated that it is a normal routine; Dalits are not allowed to attend religious or social festivities in the village. This is certainly not the first reported incident of violence against Dalits. In August 2017, a similar event had unfolded in Gujarat during the garba festival where a Dalit man was lynched in Gujarat’s Anand district when he had gone to see the garba festival. He was attacked by men from the Patel community who similarly had told him that he ‘had no right to watch’ a garba festival, according to the Indian Express.

Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu

On October 30th, two young Dalit boys were attacked brutally, with their valuables stolen, in Tamil Nadu’s Tirunelveli, according to ANI. The victims, S Manoj Kumar and S Mariappan are currently receiving medical treatment at Tirunelveli Medical College Hospital are both aged 21 and 19 respectively.

The incident has elicited strong reactions from the local community and activists who have condemned this brutal act of caste-based violence. Some community leaders have also accused the police of downplaying the gravity of the incident with leaders suggesting that the police might be trying to downplay the severity of the incident and instead are trying to portray it merely as a robbery. However, the Tirunelveli City Police Commissioner C Mageswari has rejected these allegations. She has assured the public that a thorough and impartial investigation is underway.

The incident occurred on Monday night when the two victims decided to visit the Thamirabarani river at around 7:30 PM for a bath. According to statements given by the victims while addressing the media from their hospital beds, the victims have stated that the attack escalated the minute they discovered that they were Dalits. The assailants further worsened the level of violence and ordered them to disrobe, and subjected them to the humiliation of being urinated on. Additionally, the attackers stole silver jewellery and mobile phones from the victims. However, the horrifying ordeal did not end there; the attackers furthermore demanded money from their victims and in response. Following this demand, one of the victims had to urgently reach out to his employer to send Rs 5,000.

This entire harrowing incident stretched from 7:45 PM to 1 AM, marking over 5 hours of agony, terror and humiliation. Once the requested money was credited, one of the accused used the victim’s motorcycle to go to a nearby ATM to withdraw cash. One of the victims has stated that “They also took Rs 5,000, two mobile phones and ATM cards from us before chasing us away from the spot. After going to a relative’s house nearby, we contacted our parents, who admitted us to Tirunelveli Medical College Hospital,” one of the victims told the police.

Subsequently, the Thachanallur police registered cases against the alleged perpetrators: Ponmani, Nallamuthu, Aayiram, Ramar, Lakshmanan, and Siva, all hailing from Tirunelveli. The accused have been detained and charged under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and the SC/ST Act, 2015.

The accused belong to a backward caste community and have now been arrested by the Tirunelveli city police. They are accused of stealing the victims’ valuable and brutally attacking them and are also accused of torturing the two Dalit youths in a horrifying manner, at the riverbed. According to a report by The NewsMinute, the accused belong to the Maravar community. The NewsMinute report also stated that in the area south of Tamil Nadu, the Vellalars are an “assertive” Dalit group. Therefore, the Vellalars and the Maravars are often seen to be “locked in bitter battles.



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