Atrocities on Dalit Youth Leading Struggle Over Land
On July 15, Tika Ram was among the youths from Ramgarh village in Dadri who attended the Convention on Bathani Tola in Delhi, and spoke of their struggle against the grab of land allocated to dalits by the gram pradhan Kuldeep Bhati.
On July 20, Tika Ram was found on the railway tracks, his body mutilated and both legs severed. Doctors at the AIIMS Trauma Centre have had to further amputate his legs to save his life, which is still in danger. Meanwhile, four other youth leaders of the struggle against land grab have been jailed – on fabricated charges of shooting a girl.
The murderous assault on Tika Ram, and the arrest of his comrades, is the latest in a series of violent acts – all aimed at punishing those dalits who dared oppose the grab of land by the powerful gram pradhan who is of the dominant Gujjar community.
Way back when Mayawati was still in power, Brahm Jatav and some other dalit youths raised their voice against the move by Kuldeep Bhati, gram pradhan, to grab 4.75 bighas of panchayat land allocated to dalits as homestead land. Bhati and his supporters encircled the dalits’ land and homes with a 7-foot-high wall. On March 14, to punish Brahm Jatav and others for daring to protest, Bhati and his thugs attacked the dalit hamlet, seriously injuring around 30 people, mostly women.
In spite of repeated protests since then, Gautam Buddh Nagar district administration has not lifted a finger to end the illegal encirclement of dalit land, and the perpetrators of the March 14 attack were not arrested. Bhati and his supporters repeatedly warned that they would ‘teach a lesson’ to the dalit youths and ensure that they never dared to raise their voice again.
On the night of July 19, a dalit girl was injured by a bullet inside her own home. The same night, Tika Ram went missing from the front yard of his house, where he had been sleeping. In the early morning of July 20, police arrived and arrested Brahm Jatav, Veerpal, Roshan and Guddan from their homes, charging them with shooting the girl. They charged Tika Ram also with the shooting. It was then that Tika Ram’s family realized he was missing, and looked for him. They found him lying mutilated near the railway tracks. When Tika Ram regained consciousness, he told his family that four people – Nepal, Dayaram, Anil Bhati alias Kalu and Kuldeep Bhati, kidnapped him at gun-point from the front of his house.
Throughout the day of July 20, while Tika Ram battled for life, the police refused to arrest those whom he had named as his attackers. It was only after a gherao of the police station for several hours by dalit women and children, led by RYA leader Aslam Khan, that the police finally agreed to lodge an FIR in the night. Subsequently Dayaram and Kalu (Anil Bhati) have been arrested, but Nepal and Kuldeep Bhati continue to be at large. The main accused Kuldeep Bhati, in fact, is seen openly moving around the village with a police gunner – yet the police claim inability to arrest him. The dominant Gujjars have been audacious enough to protest against the arrest of Anil Bhati – and the Greater NOIDA police and administration are clearly under their thumb. They continue to terrorise the dalits daily, and there is every danger that more atrocities and acts of violence against dalits may occur at any time. The police has even withdrawn the security that it had initially provided for a short time.
Right from the beginning, a small section of dalits in the village have been acting as agents for Kuldeep Bhati and his supporters. With their help, Bhati has falsely implicated the main dalit youth leaders, in order to deflect from the land struggle. As a result, the land struggle has indeed been pushed back, with the main dalit leaders having to fight to prove their innocence against the cooked-up ‘attempt to murder’ charges. The sheer horror of Tika Ram’s mutilation too is aimed as a deterrent for the dalits to continue with their struggle to defend their land.
The RYA and CPI(ML) are demanding that since the Greater NOIDA administration’s bias is apparent, an impartial judicial enquiry be ordered to establish who in fact shot at the dalit girl, and who are responsible for the murderous attack and mutilation of Tika Ram. The four innocent youths who have nothing whatsoever to do with the shooting of the girl, that happened within the four walls of her own house, must be freed without delay, and the charges of attempted murder withdrawn. Round-the-clock police protection must be provided for all the dalit families in the village.
The Greater NOIDA administration must answer as to why the illegal 7-foot wall erected around common panchayat land is yet to be demolished. The wall must be demolished and the land allocated amongst dalits, and the latter must be given possession of the land. The UP Government and Greater NOIDA administration must also answer why Kuldeep Bhati, who himself is guilty of grabbing panchayat land and unleashing a spate of violent atrocities on dalits, is yet to be removed from his position as gram pradhan.