//Dalits take Gandhi's path of protest

Dalits take Gandhi's path of protest

Urvashi Guliam, CNN-IBN , February 16, 2007

DALIT DOOM: The Harijans want a permanent solution and there isn’t one in close sight. Dahola village, Jind (Haryana): In real life, such a protest seems unimaginable. But 20 Dalit families have done just that.

It's not only fear that is keeping them away from home, it's a question of dignity and the fact that they can no longer take the humiliation from the upper castes.

Eighty-five-year-old Mor Singh is seriously ill. His last wish is to be back home. But he knows he cannot simply give up.

“They have taken away our. But they will kill us if we go back there,” said Singh.

They spent the entire winter out in the cold. Their children have not been able to go to school. Three meals a day is a luxury, but they refuse to go back home.

Home for these families, is Dahola, a village 30 kilometers from Jind.

The cause of the problem is a 350 sqare yard plot. Two subcasts of Jaats had laid claim to the land back in 1957. The dispute went to court and the Kaith Patti Jaats won.

In 1985, they donated the land to the Dalits, for building a Ravidass temple here.

But this didn't go well with the other Jaat subcaste, the Lahori Patti Jaats. They tried to stall attempts by Dalits to build a temple in 1995 and eventually went to court to strengthen their case.

“We didn't know about the court case. They just went and filed a case on their own,” said a panchyat member, Zile Singh.

The temple construction was suspended and things were relatively calm, until the Lahori Jaats started encroaching on this land.

They started extending their houses on to this plot and elbowed in on the lane, which was handed over to the Dalits through an SDM order, to tie their cattle.

Dalits weren't allowed to use the common tap nearby and had to face cast abuse and threats.

The two communities finally came to blows. A day before Diwali in 2006, the entire colony of Harijans started a protest outside the District Commissioner's (DC) house.

After 35 days, a case was slapped on them and they were pushed to the ground across the road.

“They can go back anytime. Adequate police has been provided for their protection,” said DC, Jind, Yudhvir Singh.

Almost four months since the Dalits left, the village is still sharply divided over the issue. The Dalits, meanwhile, carry on living the life of refugees.

But their locked houses are testimony to a sad reality. Cast bias and infighting for community pride exist to the extent to forcing over 80 people out of their homes even in this day and age.

The Harijans want a permanent solution and there isn’t one in close sight. Will they ever be able to return home?