Gohana and Akola
P. Sainath on torching of Dalit assets that happens so frequently in our midst:
About the time 50 Dalit houses were set ablaze in Gohana, the country marked 50 years of a law giving effect to the Constitution's abolition of untouchability. As if to rub in the irony, 25 more Dalit homes have been torched in the same week. This time in Akola, Maharashtra. [Link added.]
Was Gohana 2005 a one-off aberration? We could then say: awful, but these things happen. And get on with life. The catch of course is that they happen every so often. And to the same people. Even a show of mandatory anguish — "what an atrocity" — doesn't begin to meet the problem. Not when the crime is systemic, societal, and structured. Not when a state disables its own citizens.
The focus, though, was on looting and on destruction of property. Dalits owning decent houses? With fridges and television sets? They had to be shown their place. Houses having gas connections were destroyed using the absent owner's LPG cylinders. The relatively good houses of the Dalits were an eyesore to their enemies. Gohana's Balmikis had, against daunting odds, emerged from the depths of deprivation. They had created these houses and assets over decades. With a kind of effort that much of society might never understand. In these, they invested not just their money but their emotions, passion, dreams, and the future of their children. The death of those dreams, the destruction of those assets, was achieved in hours. Petrol cans and police connivance were all it took.
A Dalit is alleged to have killed someone. All Dalits in his basti must pay the price. The due course of law gets dumped. The caste panchayat reigns higher than the courts.