he attack on a a Dalit settlement in Pabnama village in Kaithal by upper caste Rors, last Saturday, after a Dalit boy married a girl from a Ror family, has left the villagers in a state of complete shock. Meena (21) and Suryakant (26) had tied the knot on 10 April in Chandigarh and approached the Punjab and Haryana High Court for security, which was provided to them. While the couple was accommodated in a safe home near Kaithal under the protection of Haryana police, the Dalit villagers started receiving death threats from local goons.
"The Rors sent the local muscleman, Sultan, to threaten us. He, along with his men said that they would avenge the marriage by taking away the women in our families. We sent most of the women and children to other villages. We also informed the police but they did not take the matter seriously and assured that nothing would go wrong," said Ravi Kumar, a resident. No more than five women remain in the area now.
The village was attacked by a mob of over 400 masked men last Saturday night causing damage to houses, vehicles and other property. At around 8:30 pm, the electricity and water supply to the village was suspended, allegedly, by the influential Rors. After this, the mob continued their attack destroying houses and furniture, even picketing small shops and taking away gas cylinders. By the time the police arrived, maximum damage had been done. The mob even injured seven policemen, including a DSP, who had tried to stop them.
As of now, at least 150 policemen are deployed near the village. The district administration has also promised compensation to the affected families.
However, tension still persists amongst the clashing villagers. Though peace committees have been formed by both the groups to settle the matter, the Dalits are unsure whether the authorities can be trusted anymore. "We were assured by the sarpanch that no harm would be done, but the attack could not be stopped by them," said Raja Ram, another resident of the village.
According to sources, the sarpanch, Hussan Singh, former Sarpanch Kuda Ram and another influential landlord Prakash Singh, all belonging to the upper castes assisted in the attacks and even helped in releasing the attackers from jail.
"We have not started working yet because most of us work for the upper caste landlords in the area. After this incident we feel very unsafe in entering their area and will not even get work there," said Ram Kumar, Suryakant's uncle. The villagers are waiting for justice and all the accused to be arrested, following which the elders might consider moving all the families of the village to another place. "We will continue to remain unsafe here. Most of us have considered leaving the village after this incident," said Raja Ram.
Most of the villagers agree with him. Meanwhile, both communities are blaming the couple for the entire debacle and are not ready to accept them.
"He brought all this upon us and made the entire village suffer. If anybody from this village saw him again, they wouldn't think twice before killing him," said Suryakant's father. "This would not have happened if Suryakant had kept his mind in check," he added.
Meena's father, Firti Singh had said in a written statement to the police that no violence will be initiated or instigated by his family. "I have three daughters and Meena's misdeeds will definitely affect the other two daughters. They will never get a suitable groom because of her. Still, I don't want to be part of the violence," he wrote.
Rs 1.2 lakh has been promised to those injured in the clash. The District Commissioner has also announced that employment will be provided to all those who register for it during the ongoing procurement season.
Kaithal SP, Kuldeep Singh Yadav informed this newspaper that six teams have been formed to arrest the accused. "We will conduct raids and make arrests as per our information. However, it is difficult as many of them are absconding following the initial arrest," he said. The police have arrested 17 of the 52 accused. The villagers have however made it clear that they would accept the compensation only after all the accused are arrested.