PUCL Bulletin, December 2001

Police Atrocities on "Dhangars" of Bettiah, West Champaran

- Pankaj and Anjani Kumar Sinha.
(Mr. Arun Kumar Das wrote the original report in Hindi

The District Unit of PUCL of Champaran District in the State of Bihar got information that police personnel in large numbers attacked the Dhangar community of the Dhangar toli, a small hamlet of Dhangars on the outskirts of Bettiah town and also came to know that a large number of women, children and handicapped have received multiple injuries. The Dhangars are one of the Scheduled Castes and are manual labourers having no assets. They have got their houses built under the Indira Awas Yojana. Some of them rear pigs as a business, and some of them have engaged themselves in illicit liquor business.

A team consisting of Mr. Pankaj and Ms. Anjani Kumar Sinha, members of the district of the PUCL of West Champaran along with Mr. Arun Das, a member of the PUCL Patna unit visited the above said Dhangar toli on 07.10.2001 to verify the information received and to gather first hand report of the alleged atrocities.
The Dhangar toil is a small habitation by the side of the Bettiah Arairaj Main road in the east of the orchard of Bettiah Raj, known as 'Dolbagh'. This Dhangar toil is at a distance of half a kilometer from the Bettiah police line, the residences of SP, DIG, and the Collector of West Champaran.

The fact finding team found that in the night of 23rd September, 2001 two police Constables identified as Mr. Jalandhar and Mr. Upendar had gone to the house of one Ramanarayan Yadav to drink cheap illicit liquor. When they were returning, they flashed their torch on a woman named Meera Devi who was taking bath under the 'Chapakal'. The flash of the torch focussed on the body of the said woman, which infuriated the woman and her husband, Prem Dhangar, who was pumping water from the hand pump for his pregnant wife. Prem Dhangar and Meera Devi protested the reckless use of torch by the said police constables. Immediately the police constables moved forward and started hitting the woman and her husband using their hands and torch. One Muharmia Devi, a neighbour, came to rescue Meera Devi, and she was also kicked to the ground. The hue and cry attracted the villagers and they came running to the place. One young man who has passed his B.A. (Hons) protested by saying that "Hum logon ko bhi koi izzat hai, paise nahin hai is se kyaa (we also have dignity, even if we do not have money).

This further infuriated the police constables and they started beating indiscriminately the people assembled there. In return the crowd gathered there assaulted both of them. Finally, both of them ran away from the spot. It is heard that one of them is undergoing treatment at Patna Medical College Hospital, Patna. The same night itself the Muffassil Thana in charge reached the village and the villagers narrated what happened in that night. He promised the people that he would take action against the police, but he has not done anything but instead he has filed a case against some of the Dhangars of the village.

In this background, it is to be noted that on the morning of 25 September 2001, Raju Dhangar, Paras Dhangar and Manoj Dhangar went for work as usual near the Police line. They were surrounded by 10-12 policemen from the police line and were dragged into the police line and beaten mercilessly. The policemen also told them that the rest of the beating they would give them in the village itself soon. And in the night of 25th September, 2001 at around 9.pm a mob of 50 to 60 police personnel from the nearby police line wearing black half pants and black jersey on their person with thick cane and thick electric wires as weapons attacked the village in the dead of night. Some of them also carried with them rifles. Some of them encircled the village to watch that no one came in to support the villagers and some of them ransacked the houses of 'Dhangars' and brutally beat them up with canes and electric wires, etc. They did not even spare pregnant women, old people, and children and handicapped people. It has to be noted that at that time of attack the electric supply was re-established and the phones began working. The people immediately went to the local Muffassil Thana and informed the police about the occurrence but the police did not do anything at all.

The team found ten to twenty bruises on the victims and some of the bruises were so severe that the skin had pealed off. Many people had cuts in the head and some of them had 5 to 8 stitches on their head. One woman's hand is still swollen due to the fracture she suffered on that day. Horil Dhangar still bleeds while urinating due to the impact of the beating. The wounds and the bruises due to the beating with the thick canes and electronic wires can be seen even after 12 days of the incident. The team interrogated and found injuries on the body of the following persons.

Jogindar Mahato (Dhangar), Shankar Nunia, Shiv Pujan, Bihari, Mahender, Prem, Bikau, Nandlal, Horil Dhangar, Devilal Dhangar, Lalan Dhangar, Saraswati Devi, Shobha, Nandu, Asharafi, Rajalal, Ratni Devi, Madan Lal Thakur, Nirmala Devi, Gulab Dhangar, Gulgul Dhangar, Phulel Dhangar, etc.
The injured with tears in their eyes told the team that when they were going to hospital for treatment for the injuries, the police personnel again fell upon them and threatened to inflict further brutal injuries if they would go to the hospital or to any authority. The frightened 'Dhangars' did not go to the hospital and got their wounds examined and treated by quacks.

It has also been told that the local police had arrived at the road on three motor cycles when the atrocities were going on, and made sure that the police has their field day with the poor Dhangars, they returned and did not visit the village at all. It has also come to the light that the police has registered a case for the occurrence dated 23rd September, 2000 for the assault of the said two constables who have been identified as (1) Upendar, (2) Jalandhar.

The district Unit of the PUCL takes serious notice of the organised attack in retaliation on defenseless people and further take serious notice that the injured were deprived of necessary medical treatment. This is a gross violation of Human Rights. It requires high-level inquiry to punish the culprits involved in the gruesome attack.

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