Haryana village raises wall to shut out Dalits, they get ‘gaps’ to pass
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A wall runs through the middle of Bhagana, put up by its Jat-dominated panchayat in this Haryana village. Two months after it came up, all that the Dalits who have been protesting against the wall in Hisar and Delhi's Jantar Mantar have managed are "gaps" to pass through and advice from the government to "go back and live in harmony".
The wall separates the Dalits from the chowk (square) that they have been using for more than 30 years. In May this year, after Dalits formed a Dr Ambedkar Welfare Committee and claimed possession of the chowk, the panchayat declared it village land and said it could not be given to them.
On Tuesday, the National Commission for Scheduled Castes directed the Haryana government to ensure the safety of the Dalit families. "It has been decided that all families belonging to the Dalit community shall return to their homes in the village," the commission said. "Till the situation gets normal, the Haryana government shall ensure proper arrangements of security in the village; a separate police station shall be set up. A magistrate shall also camp in the village and ensure that the affected families are not barred from taking water and using transport facilities."
While the order vindicates their stand, the Dalits are not yet ready to call off their protest. Hisar Deputy Commissioner Amit Kumar Agarwal, who is trying to broker peace, admitted he had been unsuccessful so far.
"We can't force the panchayat to demolish the wall. At the same time, the protesters will not return until that happens," he said. Following the raising of the wall, the Ambedkar Welfare Committee filed a suit in a local court but lost. Immediately after that, the panchayat built a wall around the square claiming encroachment by neighbouring Dalit houses.
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