Haryana govt denies social boycott of Dalits, SC takes tough stand
On December 4, Kumari Selja, who was recently appointed as Congress party chief in Haryana, raised a question in Rajya Sabha to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment if the government was aware about Dalits being boycotted in a village in Haryana.
In its usual pattern of giving answers, the government shirked any responsibility and gave a fact-based answer. Interestingly, the Ministry denied any social boycott while the case is pending before the apex court and the court has not yet decided whether social boycott has been committed by the ‘upper castes’. The Minister of State of Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Ramdas Athawale, in response said,
“Government of Haryana in the matter has apprised this Ministry that it is not correct that member of Scheduled Castes are being socially boycotted in any village of District Hisar. However, on a specific complaint of an individual, an FIR dated 10.07.2017 invoking relevant sections of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 thereon, was registered, that alleged Social boycott of member of SC by some person in village, Bhatla, District Hisar. Subsequently, when a Writ Petition was filed by the complainant in the Punjab and Haryana High Court, the Hon’ble Court on 28.05.2018 appointed an Advocate as Court Commissioner to submit the report regarding actual situation in village Bhatla. The Commissioner in the report concluded that the fight took place due to the heat generated at the spur of moment between two communities over the water from the hand pump and it has no background of any caste conflict nor there appears to be predetermined mind of either of two castes amongst the fight of two communities. Therefore, on 24.10.2019, the Hon’ble High Court disposed off the Petitions. Another Writ Petition in the matter has however been filed by an individual in Hon’ble Supreme Court and the matter is presently sub-judice.”
Although the answer given in terms of the legal status of the case is factually correct, the former part of the answer seems like the Haryana government has already decided a matter that is sub judice in the apex court.
About the case
A petition was filed before the Punjab And Haryana High Court by Ajay Bhatla alleging social boycott of 500 families in Bhatla by people of ‘upper castes’ and accordingly a commissioner had visited the village on the court’s order, to prepare a report but the officials gave him wrong information, a charge that was denied by the police and concerned officials.
After the petition was disposed of in the High Court, the matter has now reached the Supreme Court.
The whole controversy started in June 2017 when some people belonging to the Dalit community in Bhatla village in Hisar, were allegedly abused and assaulted over use of hand pump following which an FIR was lodged. It was reported in August last year that among the people who were boycotted, 300 dalits embraced Buddhism. Due to boycott in the village the Dalits were forced to sell their animals and they were also being deprived of employment; more so, even the supply of water and power in the Dalit locality was interrupted. The community was also barred from entering residential areas and fields.
The Supreme Court took serious note of this case; Justice Ramana said, “What is happening in your state? Social boycott is happening since the last one-and-a-half years and the government did nothing”. Justice Ramana directed the counsel for the State of Haryana to get a written response from the state government. The Supreme Court has even asked the state government to submit names of cops belonging to neither community to which either party belonged, to conduct a fair inquiry. The petitioners are seeking a CBI inquiry in the case. The date for next hearing is December 10.
A case of social boycott of which the Supreme Court has taken such strict cognizance, is being downright denied by the Haryana government, seemingly having decided that the Dalit community’s allegations are unfounded and no social boycott has taken place. It is a dangerous statement to make specially when the matter of fact is that the court has not yet decided whether social boycott has taken place. The Haryana government had even submitted to the government that increase in registration of cases under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act is primarily in minor offences which are mainly due to free registration of cases and increased awareness amongst members of Scheduled Castes.