Three years after Dalit killings, police still stand guard in Dangawas
Dangawas: The rumble of a tractor can still stir fear in hearts of the Dalits of Dangawas village in Nagaur district. It brings back vivid memories of a blazing morning in May 2015 when a mob of Jats mowed a Dalit family down with tractors to settle a decades-old property dispute. Five people died, and many others were injured.
Khema Ram, one of Ratna Ram’s brothers, was at the farm that morning. His voice breaks as he recalls the horror of that day more than three years ago. “We were cooking inside when I heard a cavalcade of tractors and bikes racing through our farm, leaving a storm of dust in their wake. They beat us, then ran us over with tractors,” he said, showing the injuries on his legs.
Khema Ram said walking is still a struggle though his injuries have healed.
For Arjun Ram Meghwal, whose father Ratna Ram died in the massacre, the government’s apathy made the enormity of the violence all the more terrible. “No political leader, not even the local MLA who is from our community bothered to meet us after the incident. It’s been years and we are yet to get our land back,” he said.
Of the 2,500 families in Dangawas, about 300 to 400 are SC households, while the rest are Jats. Dangawas falls within the Merta assembly constituency, a reserved seat held by BJP’s Sukharam Meghwal, a Dalit who won with 52% of the votes polled in the 2013 assembly election.
The fear in Meghwal basti is palpable as several accused are still at large despite a CBI probe being underway. There is a Rajasthan Armed Constabulary (RAC) unit stationed at a vacant plot in the basti, indicating the gravity of the situation. Nowhere
else in the state has there been a crisis of such proportion that an RAC unit had to be deployed inside a residential locality, three years after the crime.
Narendra, another resident, said they are still threatened by the relatives of the Jats who were accused of the crime. “On October 6, we were walking down a road when one person drew a pistol and pointed it at us. He threw caste slurs before threatening us,” he said.
For many, time froze on May 14 at the farm where massacre happened. The two remaining pillars of the makeshift house destroyed by the mob stands witness to the day when authorities turned a blind eye to bloody caste rivalry.
Govind Meghwal, a relative of the victims, said none of their 18 demands presented to the government have been fulfilled.
“There is anger against the state government. Several days prior to the incident we had alerted the local authorities about the danger and an impending attack,” he said.
If Dangawas left an open wound, the Supreme Court’s decision to dilute the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act rubbed salt into it. Dalit anger against BJP is palpable, and could be a deciding factor as the party won a majority of Rajasthan’s 34 reserved seats in the 2013 state election. The April 2 protests and subsequent violence is further evidence of Dalit anger against the ruling party.
Bhanwar Meghwanshi, activist and writer, said Dangawas is a microcosm of a larger problem. “The leaders who contest from
reserved seats don’t want to upset their other vote bank. In Dangawas, the sitting MLA, a Dalit, did not raise his voice because he was supported by Jats who always vote as a block,” he said.