Rajasthan: Dalit man killed after row over Ambedkar poster

Vinod Bamnia, a member of Bhim Army, was assaulted on June 5, succumbed to injuries two days later

Image Courtesy:indianexpress.com

Vinod Bamnia, all of 21 years of age, had been an active member of the Bhim Army, raising his voice against casteism and was slowly being known for his activism in Rajasthan’s Hanumangarh district. However, on June 5, he was attacked near his own house by men allegedly shouting casteist slurs as they assaulted him.

According to news reports, the attackers kept shouting “Aaj tumhe tumhara Ambedkarvad yaad dilvayenge (We will make you remember your Ambedkarite ideology today.” The young man was so severely injured that he died two days later at a hospital in Sriganganagar. The Bhim Army has alleged “police inaction” and staged a protest.

Vinod Bamnia, also known as Vinod Meghwal, was assaulted by a group of men belonging to an OBC community, stated news reports. This fatal attack is said to be an act of revenge and was carried out two weeks after these men had allegedly torn B R Ambedkar posters pasted outside Vinod’s home.

Police told the media that Vinod had registered complaints twice this year. First, in April he had told the police that he was receiving threat calls after he objected to copies of the Hanuman Chalisa being distributed at a school. He had complained again accusing several villagers of allegedly attacking him and his family for objecting to a road block reported Indian Express.

Vinod, say his family, was killed in an act of caste-based revenge by the accused. His cousin Mukesh, who filed the complainant of Vinod’s murder case is reported to be an eyewitness to the assault and said the youn man was attacked on June 5 in revenge. He said, “Some men including Anil Sihag and Rakesh Sihag, who also live in our village, had torn the banners of Babasaheb Ambedkar, which were put up outside our home since Ambedkar Jayanti on April 14. After we identified them, we complained to their families. The matter was sorted with the mediation of the panchayat, and their family members apologised on their behalf.” 

However, the matter did not end there, and Vinod Bamnia, who was a member of Bhim Army, was assaulted on June 5 near his home in Kikraliya village of Rajasthan’s Hanumangarh district. According to the police, Anil Sihag and Rakesh Sihag, who had been named by his family in the complaint  after the poster incident, have also been named in the FIR registered on the June 5 assault, and his death two days later. They are among four who have been arrested. However, it is not known what action was taken against them when Vinod had complained about the posters being torn. 

Caste curse in BJP and Congress ruled states

The question raised is, if action had been taken then, perhaps the June 5 attack, and the subsequent death of the young Dalit activist could have been prevented. These are the questions being raised by Dalit voices online, who are demanding justice for Vinod, as well as asking why such caste-based crimes are happening in Rajasthan. Activists say when it comes to caste based crimes, both Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are the same. That this murder took place in Rajasthan is illustrative of that, they say.

Mukesh described the gruesome attack to IE in detail, “On June 5, Vinod and I were on our way to our fields in the village when we were attacked by Rakesh, Anil and a few others, who were waiting for us with sticks. I managed to escape with minor injuries. But they beat up Vinod with hockey sticks about 20-30 times. He was taken to Rawatsar and referred to hospitals in Hanumangarh and Sriganganagar where he subsequently succumbed to his injuries. 

According to the news report, the initial FIR in the assault was registered by police under IPC sections 307 (attempt to murder), 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt), 341 (punishment for wrongful restraint) and 143 (punishment for unlawful Assembly) — and sections of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. The charge of attempt to murder was changed to murder under IPC section 302, after Vinod’s death.

Hanumangarh SP Preeti Jain told the IE that the arrests were “made promptly” and that “it is wrong to say there was police inaction” as alleged by the victim’s family. According to Jain, “Posters of B R Ambedkar were put at the house of Vinod. On May 24, some men from the village tore them. Following this, their family members apologised on the directions of the panchayat. Nobody contacted the police. But the accused who tore the posters didn’t forget the incident and carried out the assault on June 5, which led to his death.” Police say, when Vinod lodged a complaint over the Hanuman Chalisa being distributed at a school in Soneri village of Hanumangarh in April, an FIR was registered under sections of the IPC and the SC/ST Act. He had in the FIR, stated the distribution was “unconstitutional” and alleged that he had received threat calls with casteist slurs. The second FIR, according to police, was on May 25, when Vinod complained that 10 persons from his village had allegedly blocked a road and attacked him and his family when they were trying to pass through. Police told the media that a counter FIR against Bamnia’s family on various charges, including attempt to murder was registered by the other side.

Bhim Army on its various social media channels has vowed to get justice for Vinod who was an active member. Voices are also being raised on the spurt in caste-based crimes in recent times. Twitter hande Mission Ambedkar has shared multiple such attacks that have taken places in Maharashtra, Bihar, Haryana etc




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