In Khairlanji's aftermath, a brutal state response
[Also see, Khairlanji's dalit victims want justice with dignity ]
Press Release: An all India Fact Finding Committee to investigate the situation in Vidarbha, following large-scale protests after the murders at Khairlanji visited Amravati, Kamptee, Khairlanji and various parts of Nagpur city on 25th & 26th November. The team comprised representatives of various democratic rights and Dalit human rights organisations.
The main findings of the team are:
(1) The widespread protest and anger actuated by the heinous murders in Khairlanji was subjected to brutal state repression in an organized government effort in many places in Vidarbha. Brutal lathi-charges, unlawful entry into people houses, violence in police custody are some of the instances of police high-handedness. Legitimate and peaceful protests were subjected to random beatings, severe baton charges, unprovoked arrests and widespread insults appealing to caste sentiments. As a result of this suppression, when some of the protest temporarily lost their peaceful character, this was used as an excuse for further widespread repression and mass arrests. We have come across numerous instances of adults, old people and women and in a few cases, children who have received serious injuries by the police- broken bones, long-term incapacitation.
(2) The police firing in Amravati, on 15th November, which took the life of a young man, Dilip Wankhede and injured 3 others, took place after the rally of the protesters had been officially closed by the organisers and the protesters were returning home.
(3) On the same day, a group of 25 women who were on their way to join the rally were arbitrarily arrested and beaten up and three of them as yet have not been released on bail. FIRs have been registered by the Amravati police against 12,000 unnamed participants of the rally.
(4) At Yawatmal, a peaceful rally initiated by Pramodini Ramteke, was instigated into a communal confrontation by upper caste elements in politics, due to which the police entered Dalit houses at random and subjected men and women to severe beating.
(5) Property has been destroyed, auto- rickshaw windscreen broken, TV sets broken in Nagpur and Kamptee. Due to the injuries and destruction of property, people have been deprived the means of their livelihood.
(6) A particularly disturbing feature of the violence was that it was accompanied by deliberate display of an extreme degree of caste prejudice. Photographs of Baba Saheb Ambedkar in people’s homes were broken and widespread caste based insults were freely employed.
(7) The team recorded some cases of malicious victimization such as the dismissal of lady constable Vishakha Bhaisana, resident of Kamptee, who was beaten up by both the police and upper caste communal forces. Sarkate, a schoolteacher of Navodaya Vidyalaya, Amravati, was arrested because he had, in his possession, some fact-finding reports and posters, after which, he suffered a heart-attack and has been suspended from his duties.
Analyzing the situation, the team feels that there is a deliberate attempt on the part of the state to teach the Dalit community trying to assert themselves, a lesson. The state machinery has played a partisan role by threatening people that they will repeat Khairlanji in their bustees. There were attempts to communalize the situation both in Bhandara and Kamptee by upper caste forces with the police turning a blind eye. Women who certainly were not part of any violence that may have occurred were brutally beaten up, their modesty outraged as they were even hauled out from bathrooms and abused. While there was no serious injury to any of the police, people have been charged under Section.307.
(1) An independent judicial enquiry by a senior retired judge.
(2) The entire sequence of events starting from the murder at Khairlanji, suppression of the news of the murder by senior officials of the government and the subsequent widespread repression of peaceful Dalit protest should be placed before the National Human Rights Commission as well as International Tribunals devoted to the suppression of inequalities based on birth.
(3) All instances of grievous injuries and destructions of property should be registered in FIRs with immediate effects and a credible and transparent police investigation should be launched in all such reports forthwith.
(4) All sufferers of such unwarranted police violence should be compensated both for injuries and loss of livelihood. All false cases against those participating in the rally should be withdrawn-since none of the police were grievously hurt Section 307 is falsely applied.
(5) We demand that constable Vishakha be reinstated and suspension order against Mr. Sarkate be revoked.
(6) Cases under Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act should be registered an action to be taken against the guilty.
– Dr Binayak Sen, Vice President, PUCL; Moushumi Basu, PUDR (Delhi); Debashree Sarkar, PUDR (Delhi); Dr Anand Teltumbde, CPDR (Mumbai); Thomas Mathew, Samajik Nyay Morcha (Delhi); Anthony Samy Lokshahi Hakk Sangathan (Mumbai); Yogesh Kamble, Lokshahi, Hakk Sangathan (Mumbai); Anil, Jaatiya Shoshan Viruddh Sangarsh Samithi (Delhi); Sunil, Sangarshrat Naujawan Sangathan (Delhi); Dr Tej Singh, Editor, Apeksha (Delhi); Paramjit Singh, Dalit Intellectual Forum of Human Rights (Delhi); Dr Suresh Khairnar, Human Rights activist, Nagpur; Shoma Sen, Committee Against Violence on Women