Caste-related violence in India

Caste related violence has occurred and occurs in India in various forms. According to a report by Human Rights Watch, "Discriminatory and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of over 165 million people in India has been justified on the basis of caste. Caste is descent-based and hereditary in nature. It is a characteristic determined by one's birth into a particular caste, irrespective of the faith practiced by the individual. Caste denotes a traditional system of rigid social stratification into ranked groups defined by descent and occupation. Caste divisions in India dominate in housing, marriage, employment, and general social interaction-divisions that are reinforced through the practice and threat of social ostracism, economic boycotts, and physical violence."[1]

1968 Kilvenmani massacre, Tamil Nadu

December 25, 1968 in which a group of c.44 striking Dalit (untouchable) village labourers were murdered by a gang, allegedly sent by their landlords, as they were demanding higher wages.

1981 Phoolan Devi, Uttar Pradesh

Phoolan Devi (1963 – 2001) was an Indian dacoit (bandit), who later turned politician. Born into a traditional boatman class Mallaah family, she was kidnapped by a gang of dacoits. The Gujjar leader of the gang tried to rape her, but she was protected by the deputy leader Vikram, who belonged to her caste. Later, an upper-caste Thakur friend of Vikram killed him, abducted Phoolan, and locked her up in the Behmai village. Phoolan was raped in the village by Thakur men, until she managed to escape after three weeks.[2]

Phoolan Devi then formed a gang of Mallahs, which carried out a series of violent robberies in north and central India, mainly targeting upper-caste people. Some say that Phoolan Devi targeted only the upper-caste people and shared the loot with the lower-caste people, but the Indian authorities insist this is a myth.[3] Seventeen months after her escape from Behmai, Phoolan returned to the village, to take her revenge. On February 14, 1981, her gang massacred twenty-two Thakur men in the village, only two of which were supposedly involved in her kidnapping or rape. Phoolan Devi later surrendered and served eleven years in prison, after which she became a politician. During her election campaign, she was criticized by the women widowed in the Behmai massacre. Kshatriya Swabhimaan Andolan Samanvay Committee (KSASC), a Kshatriya organization, held a statewide campaign to protest against her. She was elected a Member of Parliament twice.

On July 25, 2001, Phoolan Devi was shot dead by unknown assassins. Later, a man called Sher Singh Rana confessed to the murder, saying he was avenging the deaths of 22 Kshatriyas at Behmai. Although the police were skeptical of his claims, he was arrested. Rana escaped from Tihar Jail in 2004. In 2006, KSASC decided to honor Rana for "upholding the dignity of the Thakur community" and "drying the tears of the widows of Behmai."[4]

1985: Karamchedu massacre

Karamchedu massacre is a massacre which occurred in Karamchedu, Andhra Pradesh on 17 July 1985, where madiga caste dalits were killed by Kamma then ruling caste in 1985.Many people lost their lives in the incident.[5]

1990s: Ranvir Sena

Ranvir Sena is a militia group based in Bihar. The group is based amongst the higher-caste landlords, and carries out actions against the outlawed naxals in rural areas. It has committed violent acts against Dalits and other members of the scheduled caste community in an effort to prevent their land from going to them. [6]

1991-Tsundur Andhra Pradesh

The village became infamous for the killing of 8 dalits on the 6 August 1991, when a mob of over 300 people, composed of mainly Reddys and telagas chased down the victims along the bund of an irrigation canal. This happened after police department asked locals to go aggressive against large number of eve teasing outsiders entering village . In the trial which was concluded, 21 people were sentenced to life imprisonment and 35 others to a year of rigorous imprisonment and a penalty of Rs. 2,000 each, on the 31 July 2007, by special judge established for the Purpose under SC,STs Atrocities(Prevention) Act.

1992 Bara Massacre,Bihar

At midnight on 12–13 February 1992, the Maoist Communist Centre of India (now the Communist Party of India (Maoist)) brutally killed 35 members of the Bhumihar bhramin caste at Bara Village near Gaya District of Bihar, India. The MCC's armed group brought the 35 men of Bara village to the bank of a nearby canal, tied their hands and slit their throats.As many as 36 people were accused of the crime, but charges were framed against only 13. The police failed to arrest the others, who had defied their summons.

1996 Bathani Tola Massacre, Bihar

21 Dalits were killed by the Ranvir Sena in Bathani Tola, Bhojpur in Bihar on 11 July 1996.[7] Among the dead were 11 women, six children and three infants. Ranvir Sena mob killed women and children in particular with the intention of deterring any future resistance which they foresaw. [6]

Six members of Naimuddin Ansari's family were slaughtered by Ranvir Sena according to the Naimuddin Ansari's witness statement. The FIR was lodged against 33 persons the day after the massacre. Niammuddin was a bangle-seller at the time of the carnage, whose 3 month old daughter was killed. Widespread claims suggest they were killed by Ranvir Sena aggressors.. Naimuddin's 7 year son Saddam was attacked and his face was mutilated by sword lacerations.

On 17 April 2012, the Patna High Court acquitted 23 men convicted of the murders. A Division Bench of judges Navneeti Prasad Singh and Ashwani Kumar Singh cited "defective evidence" to acquit all of them.[6][7] The next day, the Bihar State SC/ST Welfare Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi stated that the NDA-led Government (under Nitish Kumar) had decided to move to Supreme court challenging the Patna HC Order.[8]

A Ranvir Sena sympathizer, who spoke to the Hindu correspondent Shoumojit Banerjee, justified the reactionary mobilisation of the upper castes against those Naxals. "The land is ours. The crops belong to us. The labourers did not want to work, and also hampered our efforts by burning our machines and imposing economic blockades. So, they had it coming."[6]

Post Bathani Tola Carnage there were several retaliatory naxal attacks killing at least 500 upper caste civilians [9] as well as attacks on Dalits and Labourers organized by the Ranvir Sena in Laxmanpur Bathe and Sankarbigha in which 81 Dalits were killed.[6]

The Counsel for the witness, Anand Vatsyayan, expressed being shocked at the High Court verdict and reportedly said that "sufficient evidence were at hand to uphold the judgement passed by the Ara sessions court. The Supreme Court guidelines in the event of a massacre are quite clear. The eyewitnesses need not remember all the names. And, of the six prime witnesses questioned in this case, all had conclusively pointed fingers at the persons convicted by the lower court.[7]

1996 Melavalavu murders

In the village of Melavalavu, in Tamil Nadu's Madurai district, following the election of a Dalit to the village council presidency, members of caste hindus(Kallar) group murdered of six Dalits in June 1996.[10]

Melur panchayat, which was a general constituency, was declared a reserved constituency in 1996. This had caused resentment between Scheduled Caste people and Kallar (Ambalakarar) community. In the 1996 panchayat elections, Murugesan was elected president.[11]

In June 1996, a group of persons attacked Murugesan, vice-president Mookan and others with deadly weapons, resulting in the death of six persons and injuries to many others. A total of 40 persons were cited as accused in the case. The trial court convicted Alagarsamy and 16 others and sentenced them to undergo life imprisonment. On appeal, the High Court by its judgment dated April 19, 2006, confirmed the trial court's order. Alagarsamy and others filed appeals against this judgment.[11]

1997 Laxmanpur Bathe Carnage, Bihar

On 1 December 1997, Ranvir Sena gunned down 58 Dalits at Laxmanpur Bathe in retaliation for the Bara massacre in Gaya where 37 upper castes were killed. In particular, a specific Bhumihar bhramin community of upper castes was targeted in retaliation for their opposition towards handing out their land for land reform. Charges were framed in the Laxmanpur-Bathe case against 46 Ranvir Sena men on December 23, 2008.[12]

On 7 April 2010 sentenced 16 convicted persons to death out of the 26 convicted at Patna court. Announcing the judgement, Additional District Judge Vijay Prakash Mishra sentenced to life imprisonment the remaining 10 convicts and imposed a fine of Rs. 50,000 on each.[12]

Around 91 of 152 witnesses in the case had deposed before the court.[12]

Recently, Patna high-court has acquitted 26 convicts from the charges.

1997 Ramabai killings, Mumbai

On 11 July 1997, a statue of B.R. Ambedkar in the Dalit colony of Ramabai was desecrated by unknown individuals. An initially peaceful protest was fired on by the police, killing ten people, including a bystander who had not been involved in the protests. Later in the day, 26 people were injured when the police carried out a lathi charge against the protesters. Commentators suggested that the arbitrarily violent response from the police had been the result of caste based prejudice, as the leader of the team stood accused in multiple cases involving caste-based discrimination.[13]

1999 Bant Singh case, Punjab

In January 1999 four members of the village panchayat of Bhungar Khera village in Abohar paraded a handicapped Dalit woman, Ramvati devi naked through the village. No action was taken by the police, despite local Dalit protests. It was only on July 20 that the four panchayat members and the head Ramesh lal were arrested, after the State Home Department was compelled to order an inquiry into the incident.[14]

On the evening of January 5, 2006 Bant Singh, Mazhabi, Dalit Sikh, was attacked by unknown assailants. His injuries necessitated medical amputation. He alleges that this was in retaliation for actively working to secure justice for his daughter, who was gang raped by upper caste members of his village in Punjab five years earlier.[15][16]

A 55-year-old Dalit Sikh woman, Sawinder Kaur has been tortured, stripped and tied to a tree in Ram Duali village of Punjab because her nephew eloped with a girl from the same community. The police arrested four persons for allegedly committing the crime on 9 September 2007.[17]

2000 Kambalapalli incident Karnataka

On 11 March 2000, seven Dalits were locked in a house and burnt alive by an upper-caste Reddy mob in Kambalapalli, Kolar district of Karnataka state. The Civil Rights Enforcement (CRE) Cell investigation revealed deep-rooted animosity between the Dalits and the upper-castes as the reason for the violence.[18]

A division bench of Karnataka High Court acquitted all 46 accused in August 2014. The bench headed by Justice Mohan Shantanagoudar held that a conviction would be "pre-judicial" to the interest of the accused given that 14 years had passed since the incident and all the 22 eyewitnesses had since turned hostile. The court also observed that the investigating police officer and some of the eyewitnesses were not cross-examined properly.

The witnesses in the case, many of whom had narrowly escaped with their lives, had turned hostile during the trial in a lower court, resulting in a similar acquittal in 2006. Immediately after that verdict was delivered, many of the witnesses told the media that they backtracked because of threats from upper-caste groups.[19]

A subsequent plea for a retrial was rejected by the High Court.[20]

2003 Muthanga Incident Kerala

On 19th Feb 2003, the Adivasis/Tribals gathered under Adivasi Gothra Mahasbha (ADMS), at Muthanga faced 18 rounds of police firing in which 2 fatal casualties were confirmed officially. The Tribals gathered in protest to the Governments delay in allotting them land, which was signed in October 2001. Later, the casualty toll had reached 5 deaths among the Tribals. Vinod, a Police Constable who died, was also a Dalit. [21]

2006 Khairlanji massacre Maharashtra

On September 29, 2006, four members of the Bhotmange family belonging to the Mahar community were killed by a mob of 40 people belonging to the Maratha Kunbi caste. The incident happened in Kherlanji, a small village in Bhandara district of Maharashtra. The Mahars are Dalit, while the Kunbi are classified as an Other Backward Class by the Government of India. The Bhotmanges were stripped naked and paraded to the village square by a mob of 40 people. The sons were ordered to rape their mother and sister, and when they refused, their genitals were mutilated before they were murdered.[22] An initial call to the police was ignored, and a search for the bodies was deliberately delayed 2 days. The bodies were found in a canal, and due to the length of time the bodies were in the water, much of the physical evidence was contaminated or destroyed.[23] The subsequent police and political inaction led to protests from Dalits. After allegations of a cover-up, the case was transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).[24]

Maharashtra's home minister and Indian National Congress leader RR Patil claimed that the Dalit protests were motivated by extremist elements. A government report on the killings implicated top police officers, autopsy doctors and the local BJP MLA Madhukar Kukade for covering-up.[24] A local court convicted 8 people, sentencing 6 of them to death and the other 2 to life.[25] However, the death sentences were later commuted to life by the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court. The High Court declared that the murders were motivated by revenge, not caste.[24]

2006 Dalit protests in Maharashtra

In November–December 2006, the desecration of an Ambedkar statue in Kanpur (Uttar Pradesh) triggered violent protests by Dalits in Maharashtra. Several people remarked that the protests were fueled by the Kherlanji Massacre.[26] During the violent protests, the Dalit protestors set three trains on fire, damaged over 100 buses and clashed with police[27] At least four deaths and many more injuries were reported.[28] [29] [30]

2008 caste violence in Rajasthan

In the Indian province of Rajasthan, between the years 1999 and 2002, crimes against Dalits average at about 5024 a year, with 46 killings and 138 cases of rape.[31][32]

2011 killings of Dalits in Mirchpur, Haryana

In 2010, Jai Prakash's house at Dalit Valmiki community colony of Mirchpur has a 2 year old dog named Ruby, which allegedly barked at some 10 to 15 drunk boys from Jat community drove on motorcycles in front of his house.[33][34] One of the Jat boys, Rajinder Pali hurled a brick at the dog which was objected by a young dalit boy named Yogesh which lead to physical fight between them.[33] Jat boys threatened dalits of dire consequences for this.[33] Later. two Balmiki elders named Veer Bhan and Karan Singh apologized to Jat elders and still got beaten by them.[33] Narnaund's Station House Officer (SHO) Vinod Kumar Kajal was close to a prominent Jat of Mirchpur.[33] On 21 April 2010 all Dalit men were invited for a compromise to another place.[33] In their absence, 300 to 400 Jat men,[35] women came with jerry cans of kerosene and petrol, agricultural implements and lathis first ransacking jewels, cash, clothes in the houses and than setting the homes ablaze with dalit women and kids inside.[36] This led to Death by burning of 70-year-old Tara Chand and his 18-year-old physically challenged daughter Suman in fire.[33][37] After this incident, 200 dalit families left the village fearing for their safety. Only 50 families remained with a group of 75 CRPF personnel deployed in the village.[38] Police named 103 people in the charge sheet out of which 5 were juveniles.[39] In September 2011, 15 people were convicted and 82 acquitted by a Sessions court.[40] CRPF was withdrawn in December 2016. In January 2017, Shiv Kumar a 17-year-old Dalit boy (also a district-level athlete) won a cash prize of Rs 1,500 in the cycle-stunt competition at a local playground.[41] A group of youths from the upper castes Brahmins, Lohars, Khatis[42] including Jats allegedly passing casteist remarks against him which led to a fight where nine Dalit youths, aged between 14 and 25, were severely injured. After this incident remaining 40 dalit families also left the village.[43] On 24 August 2018, in a landmark judgement[44] Delhi High Court reversed the acquittal of 20 accused and upheld the conviction of 13 others in the case with enhanced punishment for nine of them.[45][46] A bench of justices S Muralidhar and I S Mehta observed

The incidents of April 21, 2010 constituted an act of deliberate targeting of Balmiki houses by Jats, setting them on fire in a pre-planned and carefully orchestrated manner. It was pursuant to a conspiracy by the Jats to ‘teach the Balmikis a lesson’.[47]

The statement that atrocities by those belonging to dominant castes against Scheduled Castes have shown no sign of abating even after 71 years of Independence forms part of the 209-page judgement authored by Justice S Muralidhar.[48][49] After the verdict, two police companies were deployed in Mirchpur under the charge of duty magistrate and DSP.[50] The next day, witnesses in the case didn't step out for work fearing backlash of the verdict.[51]

2012 Dharmapuri violence

In December 2012 approximately 268 dwellings – huts, tiled-roof and one or two-room concrete houses of Dalits of the Adi Dravida community near Naikkankottai in Dharmapuri district of western Tamil Nadu were torched by the higher-caste Vanniyar. The victims have alleged that ‘systematic destruction’ of their properties and livelihood resources has taken place.[52]

In December 2012, in case of caste violence, two men named Akbar Ali and Mustafa Ansari were beaten by Muslims.[53]

2013 Marakkanam violence, Tamil Nadu

In April 2013, violence broke out between the villagers along East Coast Road near Marakkanam and those travelling to Vanniyar dominant caste gathering at Mamallapuram. A mob indulged in setting fire to houses, 4 buses of TNSTC and PRTC. 3 people were injured in police firing. Traffic was closed in ECR for a day.[54]

2015 Dalit violence in Dangawas, Rajasthan

On Thursday, May 14, 2015, clashes between Jats and Dalits in Dangawas village of Rajasthan's Nagaur district left 4 people dead and 13 injured.[55]

2016 Rohith Vemula Suicide in Central University of Hyderabad

The suicide of Rohith Vemula on 18 January 2016 sparked protests and outrage from across India and gained widespread media attention as an alleged case of discrimination against Dalits and backward classes in India in which elite educational institutions have been purportedly seen as an enduring vestige of caste-based discrimination against students belonging to "backward classes".

2016 Saharanpur violence

The violence broke out during the procession of Rajput warrior-king Maharana Pratap over the loud music. In the violence one man was killed, 16 were injured and 25 Dalit houses were burned. The incident was connected to the BJP MP from Saharanpur Raghav Lakhanpal.[56]

2018 Samrau violence in Jodhpur, Rajasthan

On the evening of 14 January 2018, clashes between Jats and Rajputs in Samrau village of Rajasthan's Jodhpur district burned shops and houses of many innocent people, and destroyed the Rawla(king's residence).[57]

January 2018 Stone pelting at Bhima Koregaon, Maharashtra

April 2018

May 2018 temple incident in Kachanatham, Sivagangai, Tamil Nadu

On May 28, 2018, Dominant caste Hindus were “enraged” that Dalits did not present temple honours to an upper-caste family, and a Dalit man sat cross-legged in front of upper-caste men. Dominant caste members also were enraged when Dalits protested the sale of marijuana in the area by people from a neighbouring village and intimidated and threatened the Dalits.[58]

When the Dalit caste protested the intimidation and threats from the dominant castes in the village with the local police in retaliation a gang of 15 dominant caste members raided the Dalit village at night attacking people indiscriminately killing three and injuring six.[59]

2019 suicide of Dr Payal Tadvi

On May 22 2019, Dr Payal Tadvi, a 26-year-old Schedule Tribe gynaecologist[60], died by committing suicide in Mumbai[61]. For months leading up to her death, she had told her family that she was subjected to ragging by three “upper” caste women doctors[62]however, the accused denied of having any knowledge of Dr Payal's tribal background[63] [64]. They allegedly went to the toilet and then wiped their feet on her bed, called her casteist slurs, made fun of her for being a tribal on WhatsApp groups and threatened to not allow her to enter operation theatres or perform deliveries. A few hours before she took her life, she had reportedly told her mother, once again, about this harassment.

See also


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