Another day and another Dalit activist lost his life due to the violence by the members of Hindu-right groups, this time in Punjab. After fighting for his life for sixteen days, at Dayanand Medical College and Hospital, Ludhiana, 19-year-old Yashwant alias Bobby, succumbed to injuries on April 29 Morning. The Dalit youth was hit by a bullet in the head during the Phagwara clashes between members of a Dalit outfit and Hindu-Right wing groups.
On April 13, when members of Ambedkar Sena had installed a board carrying a picture of Ambedkar to commemorate ‘Ambedkar Jayanti’ at Gol Chowk (intersection point) on the Jalandhar-Ludhiana National Highway in Phagwara town, members of two Hindu right-wing groups - Shiv Sena Bal Thackeray and Hindu Suraksha Samiti opposed the move, resulting into clashes between the two sides. Reportedly, members of the right-wing groups opened firing on their rivals, during which Yashwant and another person, Kulwinder Kumar sustained bullet injuries. While Yashwant succumbed to the injuries, Kumar is recovering well.
After the news about Yashwant’s death began circulating, reportedly around 4,000 policemen, including Punjab Police, three companies each of Rapid Action Force, Anti-Riots Squads and BSF have been deployed in all sensitive areas in Phagwara. Dalit activists are demanding that the Gol Chowk be renamed as Samvidhana Chowk and a memorial of Yashwant should be erected there.
State Police have registered a case under various sections, including an attempt to murder, hurting religious sentiments, robbery, assault, Arms Act and the National Highways Act on this incident. So far, among those arrested in this case are Shivi Batta (Hindu Shiv Sena), Inderjit Karwal (Shiv Sena), Deepak Bhardwaj (Hindu Suraksha Samiti) and Raju Chahal (Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha leader).
Along with Yashwant, at least 10 Dalits have died either due to the violence by Hindu-right wing activists or by police firing in four states – Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh this April.
Police-constable aspirants' castes marked on their chests
A probe has been initiated after photographs surfaced in media, showing aspirants for police constable post had their caste categories written on their bare chests in Madhya Pradesh’s Dhar district on April 29.
Aspirants attending medical examination were seen in the photographs as marked with “SC” (Scheduled Caste), “ST” (Scheduled Tribe), “O” for OBC and “G” (General) on their chests with sketch pens, triggering debate over caste-based segregation.
The incident occurred in the Dhar district hospital when the District Medical Board was conducting the medical examination of the candidates. While it is unclear that who had prompted such a discriminating move, so far the medical department officials have denied their role in the matter.
Una Flogging victims attacked again
On April 25, two of the four members of a Dalit family, who were assaulted by ‘cow vigilantes’ in Gujarat’s Una town in July 2016, were once again attacked by one of the accused who was out on bail. Reportedly, Kiransinh Balubhai Darbar had attacked and threatened Ramesh Sarvaiya and Ashok Sarvaiya, who later registered a complaint with the Una police.
On July 11, 2016, four Dalits were publicly flogged in Una town for allegedly skinning the carcass of a cow. The video of the incident went viral triggering a nationwide outcry by the Dalit organisations. Subsequent investigation revealed that the cow was killed in the attack by a lion.
A total of 450 Dalits, including the family members of the Una victims, have embraced Buddhism on April 29, in an event held at Mota Samadhiyala village, near Una town in the Saurashtra region. The event was held in the commemoration of Buddha Purnima.