(Round Table India report)
Around 19 Dalits, including three children, were seriously injured in an attack on a procession marking Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar’s birth anniversary on Monday at Adoli village of Washim district in Vidarbha.
The peaceful rally took a violent turn after the dominant Kunbi Maratha community allegedly attacked Dalits unprovoked. According to the police, this is the second such attack since 2013.
“It was a routine annual procession. We reached near a Mahadev temple inside the village and suddenly saw a pile of stones blocking our way. Suddenly a group of over 100 men, all from Kunbi community started pelting stones. Some hit us with boulders,” said Rajkumar Padghan, one of the victims, recupertating in a civic hospital in Washim. Most injured in the attack have suffered severe head injuries, the police said.
“Like any other village, our Basti, too, is outside the village limits. It upsets the dominant caste, when we assert ourselves and enter spaces dominated by them,” said Shahu Ghughe, a villager, who was a part of the procession.
Following the attack, the Washim police has arrested 34 persons. “We have named 88 persons in the FIR on the basis of descriptions and names gathered by the victims. Soon after the incident 32 persons were arrested and a court remanded them to police custody till April 18. The other two will be produced before a court on Wednesday,” said Washim Superindent of Police Sudhir Hiremath.
All the accused have been booked under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of atrocities) Act along with sections of the Indian Penal Code for attempt to murder and rioting.
According to the locals, last year on April 28, a similar incident had occurred in the village. “In last years clash, too, the police had booked people from both communities. The Kunbis are against these processions. They had opposed the procession last year. However, when Dalits still went ahead with it, the Kunbis attacked the procession,” said Pappu Ghuge, a local.
The case registered last year is still pending in the court.
“Most accused are repeat offenders and had participated in the clash last year, too,” said a senior police officer. Further adding that they are collecting more statements to build a strong case.
However, Dalits in the village claim that the police did not provide enough security to the community, even when they were aware of the problem. “Only four police constables were deployed for a procession of over 1,000 persons,” said Padghan.
Hiremath, however, said, “We had requested the community to not have this procession following last year’s attack. But they went ahead with it. We did not anticipate any problem to beef up security in the area.”
Vinod Tayde, a local reporter from Washim said, the village Sarpanch, tanta mukti samiti (dispute redressal committee) and the police had called for a meeting and had given into the community’s demand to carry out a peaceful rally. “How could the police assume that four constables would be able to take care?” asked Tayde.
Hiremath, said that due to a man power crunch, they were not able to deploy a lot of police. “The situation turned awry, but we managed to bring it under control immediately,” Hiremath said.
Officials from the State Social Justice department visited the village on Tuesday. “We met the victims at the hospital and took a stock of the situation. Decision on compensation to the victims will be taken soon,” said an official from the State Social Justice department.