Confederation of Human Rights Organizations (CHRO) Keralam, India extends its solidarity to CAVOW and other Human Rights organizations on Khairlanji Dalit Family Killings.
The killing of a Dalit Budhist family in Khairlanji village in Bhandara District of Maharashtra has come as a shock to us. More than the killing, the heinous mode of killing, indifference of the police, cover-up by the administrative machinery or main stream media and continued repression of hindutva militant protests against it, is all are more alarming.
On March 13, 2005, night Hajabba and his son Hasanabba, two cattle traders from Muslim community were paraded nude near the helipad at Adi Udupi by Bajrang Dal activists in Karnataka State. In Khairlanji, the witness reports say that all victims were paraded naked, the women raped, a stick was shoved into the girl's vagina, the brother was told to have sex with the sister and when he refused his genitals were crushed with sticks. All of them were attacked on their private parts by axes etc and finally killed.
If you compare the mode of operation with Gujarat Pogrom it will reveal the identity of sick minded ideology which promote hatred against minorities, dalits and tribals. We need to condemn this heinous mode of hindutva fascism and demand immediate punishment of the guilty people.
COMMITTEE AGAINST VIOLENCE ON WOMEN (CAVOW)
Nagpur dt. 8-11-06, Press Release
Condemn Heinous, Brutal Killing of Dalit Family and Rape of Mother and Daughter at Khairlanji, Bhandara
On September 29, 2006, four members of a poor peasant dalit family in Khairlanji village in Bhandara district of northeast Maharashtra were brutally killed in planned mob violence. The women members, mother and daughter were raped, sexually assaulted. All the members were paraded naked and tortured and assaulted on their private parts. Only the father, who was away, working in the fields, escaped this horrible fate.
Since then, Bhandara and Nagpur have been shaken by militant agitations by dalit and women's organizations. On 1st November, some of us from Cavow participated in a huge rally in Bhandara city organized by dalit women's organizations only, under the banner of Samrudhha Boudh Mahila Sangathana,without any political party's presence. About 1000 women participated in his rally. Soon after that sporadic violence, like burning cycle tires, vehicles, including a police jeep and militant demonstrations all over the dalit residential areas and bustees in Nagpur broke out. There were even pamphlets distributed saying that no political parties are involved in this agitation.
This was a way of the poorer sections of the dalit community expressing their frustration with established political parties and their own leaders who only tail behind these parties. But of course, the police department is busy fishing for the invisible hand of left extremists supposedly behind this agitation rather than taking steps to satisfy the angered community*. In fact three activists have been detained since last night (including Ashu Saxena, a woman activist and Anil Borkar who is active with PDFI **Nagpur**).They were in no way connected with the violence and in fact Anil was away from the area attending the meeting of Kashipur Solidarity Committee on the day the incidents happened. Many others from the community, including women have been arrested. There have been severe lathicharge, house raid, arrests and beatings and other forms of state violence.*
Coming back to the incident, the most disturbing factor is that it happened for no major reason, indicating that the poison of casteism has been spread and revived in such a way that those who belong to the majority community, even if it the lower rungs, are confident that they will get away with any barbaric acts. The anti-Muslim pogroms in Gujarat and the absence of any significant punishment for the guilty have gone a long way in creating this confidence. Almost an entire village of OBCs and adivasis dragged out the Bhotmange family, assaulted, paraded naked, raped and killed them in full public view in broad daylight.
The Samata Sainik Dal has done a fact-finding and brought out a report demanding a judicial inquiry but it was only after Nagpur started burning that a judicial inquiry was ordered. According to the SSD report the incident was as follows: About 16 to 17 years ago, Bhayyalal Bhotmange (the sole survivor) bought some land in this village and built a small ramshackle hut to reside here. The level of education in the village is very low but the children of this dalit family were going to college and Priyanka, the 19 year old daughter had studied up to 12th standard. This caused a lot of jealousy in the villagers. Another cause of resentment was that due to them buying and cultivating that plot of land the normal path by which bullock carts were driven was blocked and this caused resentment and dispute. There are only three dalit families in the village, two of which are very docile. The Bhotmanges were friends with the Gajbhiye brothers from a nearby village. These boys were very close to the police patil of their village and this gave the Bhotmanges some confidence.
For such petty reasons, that a dalit family is asserting itself, some of the other villagers first attacked Siddharth Gajbhiye and were arrested. According to a report brought out by an NGO from Pune, Manuski Advocay Centre, when the accused were released, the local BJP MLA instigated them that the dalit family would take revenge. Priyanka had already given a statement as an eye-witness of the assault of Siddharth. So on 29th evening the villagers arrived in tractors with sticks, axes and other such weapons.When the mother Surekha called the Gajbhiyes for help using a cell phone, Siddharth was out. His brother Rajendra rushed to the police station and then cycled to the village.
Though the police station is 15 kms away from the village the police did not turn up. Activists in Bhandara told me that this was due to political pressure from the BJP MLA. When Rajendra reached the village he saw the attack taking place and due to fear hid behind a tree. Surekha Bhotmange (45), Priyanka (19), Sons Sudhir (18) and Roshan (17) were all victims to this barbaric brutality.
One of the sons was blind. Activists say that they were all paraded naked, the women raped, a stick was shoved into the girl's vagina, the brother was told to have sex with the sister and when he refused his genitals were crushed with sticks. All of them were attacked on their private parts by axes etc and finally killed.
The police IG, (Anti-Naxal Operations) Pankaj Gupta has denied that the women were raped but activists feel that the post-mortem report was managed by the police. Now about 44 of the villagers are in jail but no one is speaking up as a witness. On the contrary rumours are being spread that the family was selling liquor and into prostitution. In fact the media too irresponsibly reported that the family was attacked due to an illicit relationship between Surekha and Siddharth. As always, co
nservative morality, targeting the reputation of women is the psychological weapon of Hindutwa fascist forces to justify their heinous crimes. As if illicit relationships or selling liquor can be any justification for such an attack.
But when the state government bans bar-girls and the police round up couples from parks and beat them up, even the state is giving this message to the people. As for the media, they are too taken up with high society cases like Jessica Lal to spare any time or space for poor dalit women like Surekha and Priyanka .
But the dalit community and dalit women have fearlessly brought out the truth and even though the official bodies like the State Human Rights Commission, Women's Commission and political parties ignored this incident they came out on the streets to fight for justice. Such incidents are part of the growing fascist trends, where in the background of Globalization and increasing hardships on the poor, the ruling classes are trying to unite the Hindu majority on an anti Muslim, anti Dalit banner. Those who fall prey to this, like the lower caste, peasant families of Khairlanji are themselves being made fools of, like pawns in the hands of the exploiters, who are using casteism and communalism to divide the people. Cavow calls upon all women's organizations to protest against the Kharlanji rape and murders and to support the struggle of the people against casteism.
- Shoma Sen, Convenor of CAVOW
Committee Against Violence on Women (CAVOW) is an All India Committee consisting of some 22 non-institutional-or-govt-funded women's organisations and around 100 individual women members. It is active since 2000 and takes up issues of violence against women.
- Dr. Abdul Salam, Secretary General, CHRO
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