What's new

Thakurs unleash anti-Dalit violence in UP during the lockdown, police accused of bias


Jul 12, 2014
On 13 June, over a hundred upper-caste people attacked a colony of the Dalit community in Pokhari village of Uttar Pradesh’s Gorakhpur district. The incumbent chief minister Ajay Singh Bisht, commonly referred to as Yogi Adityanath, won five consecutive Lok Sabha elections from the Gorakhpur constituency and the district is considered his home turf. All the aggressors hailed from the Thakur caste, the same as Adityanath. Atul Kumar, a 24-year-old resident of the colony, told me that the attack was triggered by the presence of a few Dalits in a puja for the Hindu goddess Kali, held in the village on the previous day. Several Dalits suffered serious injuries in the attack, and a first information report was registered in the case on the same night. The FIR lists at least 29 accused, who have been identified by name. However, over two months later, not a single person has been arrested. When I spoke to the investigating officer, Nitish Kumar, on 22 July, he refused to answer any questions, and asked me to come to Gorakhpur if I wanted to talk about the case.

While there is no consolidated official data on incidents of caste atrocities during the lockdown to combat the novel coronavirus pandemic, reports from several states suggest that there has been a sharp uptick in violence against Dalits in this period. Uttar Pradesh, with its history of violent caste-based fault lines, has witnessed a spike in attacks on Dalit communities across the state. I recorded at least four attacks in four districts over the past two months—in each of the cases, the perpetrators were Thakurs. No arrests have been made in at least two of the cases. In one case, arrests were made only after an NGO gheraoed the concerned police station. In each case, the concerned police officials either refused to talk or said that investigations were ongoing. Ravindra Singh, a former justice of the Allahabad High Court, told me that “the thinking of the present government and people in its top positions is anti-Dalit. Officers of the same thinking have been made superintendents of police, district magistrates and station house officers. They feel that injustice against Dalits is nothing special.”

Atul told me that three people from his locality had watched the puja—Rajinikanth, Chhotu and his father, Murari. “Murari stayed for some time and then he left. Soon after, the Thakurs started using profanities against Chhotu and Rajinikanth, abusing their mothers and sisters. Then they started beating them up. Both of them somehow saved themselves and ran away.” Atul said that the next day, around 8 am, a few of the Thakurs of the village caught another young Dalit man named Shailesh, who was on his way to the market, and beat him severely.

“When Shailesh came home after being beaten, then the elderly Thakurs came home and apologised, and the two sides reached a compromise and all the people present there went back to their houses,” Atul told me. “But around 10 am, about a hundred Thakurs attacked the village and beat up whoever they got their hands on.” He added, “My sister-in-law, Manisha Devi, was injured as was Chandrakala, Ankita, Rajinikanth, Ramkirat, and many others in the village suffered serious injuries.” Atul said that Chandrakala was admitted to the Gorakhpur Medical Hospital for two days. All of them shared their medical reports to show me the extent of their injuries. Atul, too, suffered a broken finger during the attack.

According to Atul, the Thakurs who attacked the village used casteist profanities. “They were saying, ‘Abe chamar teri itni himmat tu hamare samne awaaz uthaega’”—You chamar, how dare you raise your voice against us. Chamar is a caste among Dalits, who historically worked in the tanning industry, and is often employed as a casteist slur by upper castes.

Atul told me that he and his brother, Abhishek, work in Mumbai. “Both of us come back on 18 May and we are now scared after the attack by the Thakurs. They broke four bikes of our locality and caused a lot of damage. But no one has come to take our statements so far.”

In another incident of caste violence unleashed by the Thakurs of the region, on 19 July, the upper castes of Samardhir village, in the Ayodhya district, attacked a local settlement of Dalits. While the immediate cause seems to have been a tiff between groups of boys, Brijlal Gautam, a Dalit resident of the village, told me that the Thakurs were upset over an issue of payment of dues.

Gautam told me that on 17 July, “a 10-year-old boy of our locality went to fish to the lake. Three Thakur boys were sitting on the bridge and drinking alcohol. This is around 5 pm.” Gautam told me that the Thakur youth tried to destroy the boy’s fishing line. “At this point the young boy inadvertently abused the Thakur boys, so they hit him and pushed him into the lake. His elder brother Pramod came running by then, and the Thakur boys started beating him up too. By now, another two to three Dalit youth from our locality reached there and tried to intervene.” He added, “The Thakur boys beat them up too.”

Gautam told me that the next morning, around 9 am, some of the men of the Dalit locality “went to the Hyderganj police station to complain. But the police instead penalised us saying that we were not wearing masks. But all of us had scarves wrapped around our faces, all of us, and we were ten people. Everybody was penalised Rs 500.” They managed to file an FIR against the Thakurs and named at least 16 people in the complaint.


Gautam said that the next day, around forty to fifty Thakurs surrounded their locality. “These people were carrying country made guns, axes, lathis, shovels etcetera,” Gautam told me. “They beat up whoever they found—Manish, Ramesh, Dinesh, Santarji, Usha and Pramod suffered serious injuries. They hit Usha with a shovel across her back. Santarji’s head was torn. Both are currently admitted in Faizabad Hospital.” Their medical reports confirmed the brutality of the attack on the Dalit community. Gautam said that the crowd vandalised Dalit property, too.

Usha (left), was hit with a shovel, and another young man (right) was attacked with a rod, on 19 July, in the Samardhir village of Ayodhya district, in Uttar Pradesh. They hail from the Dalit community and were among several residents who were injured when around fifty Thakur men attacked a Dalit colony.  Naresh (centre), a Dalit resident of  Dahgawan village of Agra district, was attacked by four Thakur men on 11 July, when he tried to stop them from molesting his niece.. Courtesy Brijlal Gautam and Sunil Kumar
Usha (left), was hit with a shovel, and another young man (right) was attacked with a rod, on 19 July, in the Samardhir village of Ayodhya district, in Uttar Pradesh. They hail from the Dalit community and were among several residents who were injured when around fifty Thakur men attacked a Dalit colony.  Naresh (centre), a Dalit resident of  Dahgawan village of Agra district, was attacked by four Thakur men on 11 July, when he tried to stop them from molesting his niece.. Courtesy Brijlal Gautam and Sunil Kumar

Usha (left), was hit with a shovel, and another young man (right) was attacked with a rod, on 19 July, in the Samardhir village of Ayodhya district, in Uttar Pradesh. They hail from the Dalit community and were among several residents who were injured when around fifty Thakur men attacked a Dalit colony. Naresh (centre), a Dalit resident of Dahgawan village of Agra district, was attacked by four Thakur men on 11 July, when he tried to stop them from molesting his niece.
According to Gautam, the FIR was not the main reason for the attack on the locality. He told me the locality was attacked because the Dalits had demanded payment for work they had done in the Thakurs’ fields. “Around twenty of us had planted paddy in the Thakurs’ fields for ten days,” he said. “A man’s wages is eight kg of wheat a day, and on 18 July, when we went to ask for our full payments, the Thakurs just refused.” Gautam said that “there has been no action on our FIR so far.” He added, “On top of it, the Thakurs are threatening us. The Provincial Armed Constabulary is presently in the village, and the Thakurs keep saying that the day the PAC leaves, they will kill us all.”

When I spoke to Kanhaiya Yadav, the SHO of the Hyderganj Police Station, on 23 July, he told me that it was a “quarrel” between two sides and hence a case has been registered against both, the Thakurs and the Dalits. “People of both sides have also been penalised for not wearing masks,” he added.

Vivek Kumar, a professor of sociology at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, told me that Dalits in Uttar Pradesh have a long history of fighting against oppression by the upper castes. “This is one of the reasons why there are so many atrocities against Dalits,” Vivek said. “This is the land of the struggle of Dalits.” As per Vivek, “If you want to understand the oppression of Dalits, then you have to understand the pattern of land ownership in Uttar Pradesh. Who has the land? Who are the zamindars? Most of them are Thakurs and this is the case from the east till the central region of the state. The number of Dalits in Uttar Pradesh is 21 percent—and almost seventy percent of them are Chamars. And there is no protection of Dalits by this government.”


A similar altercation between a group of boys lead to another violent attack against Dalits in the Bhuakhurd village of Jaunpur district on 19 July. Here, too, around fifty Thakur men attacked a local settlement of Dalits and seriously injured several people. Mangruram, a resident of the village, told me, “Two children from the locality, Golu and Rahul, were grazing buffaloes in an orchard. Both of them were also trying to break mangoes from trees by throwing stones at them. One stone hit two Thakur boys who were passing by. The Thakur boys immediately started using casteist slurs and so our boys also abused them back.”

Mangruram said that the Thakur youth called some of their friends and relatives and soon another ten Thakur youth turned up. “All of them arrived with sticks and stuff and they beat up Golu and Rahul really badly,” Mangruram told me. “As soon as our youth came to know about this, they too reached there with four-five people and tried to rescue Golu and Rahul. But the Thakurs beat them up too.” Mangruram said that Golu and Rahul came home around 12 pm but around forty Thakurs also surrounded the locality just as the children reached home. He said that they called the police immediately but the crowd attacked them with weapons ranging from sticks, poles, hockey sticks and iron rods. Mangruram told me that his hand was injured in the attack. “Many people of the village were injured.” He also said that while the police came, they did not intervene. “The Thakurs beat us in front of the police.”

Mangruram told me that the police filed an FIR against the Thakurs the same day, “but we had identified 15 people and another 25 people who we did not know. But the police have named only 9 people.” Mangruram said that “we are still getting threats. The Thakur people say, ‘We will teach them a lesson. This time there will be an attack in the night because in the day they take videos’.” He said that the whole Dalit locality was scared because “there are Thakur villages all around us. People from those villages also come with them. That’s why the fear of them all remains.” When I spoke to the Sikarra police station in-charge Arun Mishra on 23 July, he said, “I just took charge this morning but nine people who have attacked the Dalits have been arrested.”

Vivek, the professor, explained that violence against Dalits takes several forms. “Violence against Dalits can be viewed from various lenses,” he said. “One level of violence is tradition based—‘How dare you sit in front of me?’ ‘How dare you stand up?’ ‘He’s untouchable.’ These are traditional forms of violence. This is the mind set of upper castes, which has not changed.”

An incident in the Dahgawan village of Agra district echoes Vivek’s explanation. On 11 July, there was an altercation between a group of Dalits and Thakurs over a case of attempted molestation. The Dalits had filed an FIR against the Thakur men on 13 July, and in retaliation the Thakurs burnt the Dalits’ houses.

Sunil Kumar, a resident of the village’s Dalit locality, told me that around 9.30 am on 11 July, his sister Satyavati, aunt, wife and children were returning from a visit to a temple. “Satyavati had gone ahead and the rest were following her,” Sunil told me. “Two Thakurs, Akash Singh and his brother Vikas Singh, caught my sister and started molesting her. Satyavati shouted for help and tried to resist them, so they beat her up.” Sunil said that by then Akash and Vikas’s fathers also reached the spot and the rest of Sunil’s family also caught up with Satyavati. “Bhagwan Singh and Chhida Singh also harassed my sister and when my family objected, they beat up everyone, including Satya. When this was happening, my uncle also reached there to try and rescue the women, but the Thakurs beat him up too.”

“My brother and I work in a private company in Noida,” Sunil told me. “As soon as we came to know about the incident, we came to the village by evening. The next day, on 12 July, we brought all of them to Agra for treatment but government hospitals refused. Somehow, we got them admitted in a private hospital.” Sunil said that he filed a complaint on 12 July but “no report was filed on that day. Our report was filed the next day on 13 July.”

Sunil said that as soon as the Thakurs found out about the FIR, they came and set fire to his family’s huts around 11 pm that night. Sunil and his family have not filed a complaint about their houses being burned down. He told me that “the police was shielding the Thakurs.” On 20 July, Priyanka Varun, president of the Bharatiya Mahila Suraksha Sangh, an organisation that works for women’ rights, surrounded the inspector general’s office and insisted that the accused be arrested. That day, Akash and Vikas were finally detained by the police. Sunil said that “the very next day, we were informed that the Thakurs are going to conduct a big panchayat. A large number of police came to the village when they heard this and the Thakurs postponed the panchayat.” Varun told me that atrocities against Dalits are happening all over the state. “This government is promoting Manuwad”—a socio-economic ethos dictated by the Brahmanical scripture, Manusmriti. “Under this government, upper castes do whatever they want and the law does not apply to them.”

“When Dalits fight for their rights, violence against them increases,” Vivek told me. “Either they continue to suffer caste atrocities and do not resist. If they protest, for their legitimate demands which the Constitution has given them, then the oppression of them increases. If someone asks for minimum wages, someone builds a good house, then people will have problems with them. When the Dalit fights for his rights, the attacks on him will intensify.”

The violence of Thakurs against Dalits in the state has extended to the cremation ground. On 21 July, in an incident in Raibha village in Agra district, local Thakurs did not allow the cremation of a Dalit woman, Pooja, in the village crematorium. Around eighty Thakurs of the neighbouring Nagla Purana village came there and refused to allow the cremation on the grounds that it was a crematorium for the upper castes and they would not allow it to be polluted by a lower caste’s pyre. Pooja’s family called the police but the Thakurs did not relent. According to report on the website India Today, the police did not take action against the Thakurs and “kept trying to force a compromise.” Pooja’s body had to be moved off the pyre to a cremation ground four kilometres away. The family told me that they chose not to file a complaint since they were all daily wage labourers, and they had to live and earn a livelihood in the area which is dominated by Thakur landlords.

Vivek, the professor, said, “Ambedkar used to say, ‘If majority does not accept any law, then we will not be able to implement that law.’ The same is happening in Uttar Pradesh. There the bureaucracy is not only corrupt but also racist. It should be understood that the secretary to the DM and the station in-charge, basically everyone who is in charge is of the same caste and this makes the people who commit such crimes feel that nothing will happen to them.” He added, “This government forgets that social justice is a part of our Constitution.”


Users Who Are Viewing This Thread (Total: 1, Members: 0, Guests: 1)

Top Bottom