Police officials trying to douse flames amid protests in Uttar Pradesh’s Auraiya on Monday, 26 September. Image: The Quint
Nineteen days after he was allegedly beaten mercilessly by his social sciences school teacher during an exam, a 15-year-old Dalit student from the Auraiya district of Uttar Pradesh died on the evening of Saturday, Septemberv 24 and the body was handed over to the grieving family on the morning of Monday, September 26. The incident has resulted in widespread protests from members of the Dalit community, who have taken to the streets to demand justice. The Bhim Army among other organisations has also protested.
The young boy, Nikhit Dohre, faced this brute casteist assault on September 7 by his social science teacher, Ashwini Singh, allegedly because he spelt a word incorrectly during an exam reports Outlook. The victim’s father has alleged that Singh, purportedly belonging to an “upper caste”, unleashed the thrashing on the minor youth with sticks and rods, and even kicked him until he fell unconscious.
This brutal death, another manifestation of a caste atrocity has sparked massive protest in Uttar Pradesh’s Auriya district.. The teacher, Ashwini Singh has been on the run, absconding according to news reports. Young Nikhit Dohre died on Saturday night while being taken to the government hospital and his body was handed over to his family after a postmortem last evening.
In a police complaint, the boy’s father alleged that the teacher beat him with sticks and rods until he fell unconscious after he spelt a spelling wrong in the social science test. He further claimed that the teacher first gave Rs 10,000 and then Rs30,00 for the boy’s treatment but later stopped receiving their calls. The boy’s father said that when he confronted the teacher, he was also abused with casteist slurs.
The victim’s family members, who are part of the political outfit Bhim Army, had initially refused to cremate the body unless the teacher was arrested. They staged a huge protest on the streets outside the school in the Achhalda area demanding the arrest of the teacher.
A police van was set on fire following the protest, according to some reports. It was only after senior police and district officials rushed to the spot and assured them of swift action that the young boy’s family and Bhim Army members agreed to take Nikhit’s body to their village for cremation. The police have included sections of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act in the FIR.
Serial attacks on young Dalits
Barely two months ago, in another state, Rajasthan a similar caste atrocity and abuse of power by a teacher led to the death of another Dalit boy, a 9-year old in the Sayla village of the state’s Jalore district. Young Indra Kumar Meghwal had died after he was beaten by his upper caste teacher for allegedly drinking water from his pot, The Indian Express had reported. The incident had occurred on July 20 at a private school in Sayla village in the Jalore district. He was on the way for treatment to a hospital 300 kms away when he succumbed to his injuries, NDTV had reported.
In that incident, Dewaram Meghwal, the boy’s father alleged that the teacher hurled casteist slurs before hitting his son. “My son Indra Kumar, a student of Class 3 at Saraswati Vidya Mandir in Jalore, was beaten up by teacher Chail Singh because he drank water from an earthen pot meant for Singh,” Meghwal had told The Indian Express. “My son did not know that the pot was meant for Singh, who belongs to an upper caste.”
In the detailed complaint to the police, Meghwal said that his son sustained injuries in his right ear and eye due to the beating. “There was bleeding from his ear and thereafter, he couldn’t move one side of his body,” Meghwal said. “His eye was sore and we admitted him to hospitals in Jalore, Bhinmal, and Udaipur before he was referred to Ahmedabad…Caste discrimination is responsible for his death.” The teacher had been arrested and booked under relevant sections of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities). The accused teacher, Chail Singh was arrested on August 13 after the child’s death and the police have taken statements of his classmates and other students present on that day. The accused teacher has been reportedly charged for murder under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
CJP Complaint to the National SC ST Commission
Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) had filed a complaint with the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) seeking greater protection for the family of the 9-year-old Dalit boy from Rajasthan who succumbed to his injuries after being allegedly thrashed mercilessly by an “upper caste” teacher. CJP’s complaint also seeks stringent action against the alleged perpetrator.
In the petition, CJP has highlighted the plight of the Dalit community living in India. While giving the detailed account of the offence, CJP has further emphasised on the need for providing further protection under the existing law to the victim’s family to ensure that they upper caste do not further harass the family into withdrawing their complaint.
CJP’s complaint says, “We are aware that an offence has already been registered and aresimply urging that further protection under the existing law is also provided to the victim’sfamily.”The complaint lists provisions under Section 15 A of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 that provide for “protection of victims, their dependents, and witnesses against any kind of intimidation orcoercion or inducement or violence or threats of violence” as well as right of the victim’s family “to be heard at any proceeding under thisAct in respect of bail, discharge, release, parole, conviction or sentence of an accused orany connected proceedings or arguments and file written submission on conviction,acquittal or sentencing.”
Pattern of abuse and social ostracisation of Dalits
The CJP complaint dated September 19, 2022 also details the pattern of targeted violence against Dalits.
“This incident is just the last instance of how Dalits continue to be vulnerable to such attacks which are not just violent in nature but also emerge from trivial social stigma such as entry into temples, access to cremation grounds, sporting a moustache, riding a horse and so on. “According to the recent report released by the NCRB, a total of 50,900 cases were registered for committing crime against India’s Scheduled Castes (SCs) and 8,802 cases were registered for committing crime against India’s Scheduled Tribes (STs) in the country. It shows a consistent increase in the crime rate. In comparison to the year 2020, in 2021 the rate of atrocities has increased by 6.4% in case of ST’s and by 1.2% in case of SC’s.
It is also being argued by social activists and researchers working on implementation of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 that the reported data by the Home Department were the cases registered in different police stations of the state while there were equal number of cases that are underreported due to a number of reasons, as it is not easy to get the cases registered due to non-cooperation by police and many cases are being settled under pressure by influential people of dominant castes and by mostly those belonging to ruling parties. In the complaint filed by the CJP, many recent cases have been cited were there have been reports of the families of the Dalit victims and witnesses being harassed and coerced to take their complaints back.
CJP hasd also urged the Commission to follow the example of the Hathras Rape case, wherein an alleged gang-rape and murder of a 20-year-old woman took place in Hathras in Uttar Pradesh. In the said case, a three-fold protection mechanism had been devised to protect the families of the victim from any kind of pressure. CJP’s complaint refers to this and says, “In the case of the alleged gang-rapeand murder of a 20-year-old woman in Hathras in Uttar Pradesh, the Supreme Court benchcomprising the then Chief Justice of India S A Bobde and Justices A S Bopanna and VRamasubramanian had asked the UP state government if witnesses in the case had beenprovided protection and if the family of the victim had a lawyer. In a compliance affidavit filedin the top court, the Yogi Adityanath-led government said “in order to ensure the security ofvictim’s family/witnesses, three-fold protection mechanism has been devised” — armedconstabulary component, civil police component comprising of guard, gunners and shadowsand installation of CCTV cameras and lights.”
“The struggles of many Dalit families who experience atrocities do not endwith the crime perpetrated against them, just like the family of the Hathras rape victim, whoclaim that Thakurs, the community to which the accused belong, are threatening them to leavethe area.
Therefore, keeping in mind the gravity of the situation, CJP has urged the NCSC:
to immediately hold an investigation and inquiry into this matter with respect to the actscommitted by the accused under the Indian Penal Code, the Scheduled Caste andScheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989; to monitor the investigation undertaken by the Rajasthan Police and ensure that there is afast-track trial and speedy delivery of justice; to ensure that the deceased victim’s family receives the necessary relief;
to ensure that data on such monitoring is made public digitally and that progress in thiscase is also visible and made public electronically and digitally. to take any other action as you may deem fit.”