Saturday, November 11, 2006

'India Shining' in Khairlanji


Bhaiyyalal Bhotmange cannot sing. His wife or daughter were not models, walking over the ramps in fashion shows. In fact, nobody from the Bhotmanges, a Dalit family living in Khairlanji village of Maharashtra’s Bhandara District, could speak his mind on Umrao Jaan in front of titillating television mikes. Probably, that is why what happened to the family never made headlines. But what 50-year-old Bhaiyyalal witnessed on September 29 is something that will continue to haunt him for the rest of his life.

It was towards the evening when a mob of upper-caste landlords descended upon the Bhotmange household. In their ramshackle hut, Bhaiyyalal’s wife, 44-year-old Surekha was preparing evening meals while her bright 18-year-old daughter Priyanka studied in one corner. Surekha’s sons, Roshan, 23, and Sudhir, 21, sat nearby. As the landlords dragged the mother, her daughter and two sons outside, Bhaiyyalal was about to reach his home. But when he heard the cries of his family, he halted and hid behind a hut.

Surekha and Priyanka were stripped naked and taken to the village chaupal, 500 meters away. For almost next two hours, they were beaten up, bitten and raped by the mob. One of them was even strapped to a bullock cart. After more than an hour of rape and plunder of their bodies, Surekha and Priyanka died. Eye-witnesses have told the Police that sticks were pushed into their private parts, and even after they died, some people continued to rape their bodies. Roshan, who was blind, and his brother were beaten up and stabbed to death. Their bodies were thrown at various spots in the villages. The next afternoon the Police fished Priyanka’s body out from a canal nearby.

“ I was too scared; I was almost paralysed,” says Bhaiyyalal, who has now fled to another village, fearing that the upper-caste landlords may even kill him, too. “Nobody, except a single woman from the village, tried to stop the mob. The lone woman was silenced by the men with a slap,” recalls Bhaiyyalal.

For almost a decade, the Bhotmanges had tried to lodge a Police complaint. A portion of their 5-acre land had been grabbed by the upper-caste landlords of the village. Even after that, they would not let the Bhotmange family live in peace with the remaining land. So for years, the Bhotmanges had to tolerate incidents of tractors mowing down the standing crops in their fields. The Police chose not to pay any attention to their grievances. The upper-caste landlords even tried to prove that Bhaiyyalal’s wife, 44-year-old Surekha had an affair with a Police Patil (honorary Policeman) in neighbouring Dhusala village, Siddharth Gajbhiye, who was actually her cousin.

On September 3, the landlords beat up Siddharth so badly that he had to be admitted in a hospital. Fearing for his life, Siddharth’s younger brother got him admitted in a hospital which is 100 kilometres away. The hospital, realizing that it was a medico-legal case, informed the local Police, who in turn informed their counterparts in Khairlanji. This time, the Police was forced to lodge a case and 14 arrests were made. Despite repeated threats, Surekha identified the culprits in the identification parade. All of them were released on bail on September 29. The same evening, they decided to take revenge.

Siddharth Gajbhiye called up the local Police station, six kilometers away, at 6.15 pm. One head constable visited the spot at 8.30 pm, but did not register a report. The next day, Bhaiyyalal Bhotmange went to the Police station to file a report, but he was not taken seriously by the SHO. It was much later that an FIR was lodged. Both policemen have been suspended for not responding, and a case has been registered against the head constable.

The postmortem report, intriguingly, said that the two women were not raped. “Doctors were managed and the police bribed.” This is what Surekha’s nephew has alleged, in a report submitted to a social organization. “Everyone in Kherlanji knows what happened with my aunt and cousins, everyone was a witness to the heinous crime,” he has said in his statement. After pressure from social activists, the bodies were exhumed, and another autopsy was conducted. But that too has not been able to establish rape. Some of the perpetrators of crime are believed to be politically well-connected. Social activists are now demanding the arrest of the doctor who conducted the first postmortem.

“It was a gory dance of death, the height of brutality,” says the district Superintendent of Police, Suresh Sagar. He agrees that the Police did not act well in time. He also clarifies that Surekha did not have any illicit relationship with Siddharth Gajbhiye. The Police have arrested 44 people so far, including 2 women. Police sources now say that some of them have confessed to the crime.

Priyanka was a bright student and was preparing for her HSC. She was also a NCC cadet and wanted to join the armed forces. “Had it been a case of rape or murder of a model like Jessica Lal, the media would have gone overboard. But in this case, not even the National Commission for Women has reacted so far,” says Dr. Rupa Kulkarni, a Nagpur-based social activist. “This is because Dalits are considered worthless in this country,” she adds.

After the protests against the incident turned violent, the State government has finally woken up from its deep slumber. Maharashtra's Chief Minister visited the village and offered a government job to Bhaiyyalal. But Bhaiyyalal declined the offer, saying that all he wants is the guilty to get severe punishment. The question is: Will justice be delivered?

(I covered this incident during my recent visit to Nagpur. This article has appeared in the recent issue of The Sunday Indian)

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

I used to think, that Dalit attorocities are part of relatively undeveloped part of India such as Bihar (Bhumihar vs Dalits). But when it happens in highly developed states such as Maharashtra, it appears to me that the caste hindu society has not gotten over with their feudal mentality. This mentality is so pervasive that, caste hindus are always aware of their caste identity no matter which part of the world they are in.
I am one of those few blessed Dalits who made it to the US but even here they dont forget to judge others on case affiliations.
Unfortunately, I am not one of those who hide their caste identity, and so it came as a rude shock and surprise that even here when they learn about someone's caste identity, they dont forget to judge. But hey, come on this is a free country, the hell with you. As long as I have sufficient grey matter, I dont give a damn about your opinion. This country accepts you as what you are and not to which you belong.
A fresh wave of air, a new confidence, a feelign of belonging to a more eagaliterian society (at least far more compared to India).
This apart, I still carry that feeling of insecurity, that somedayy, I might face the wrath of caste hindus in the US. Fortunately, the laws here are far more stricter than India. So I feel more protected and more confident that sooner or later justice will be done.
Dalit society has been psychologically manipulated and conditioned over a period of time that they came to accept that caste is directly associated with talent/merit. This conditioning over a period of time has given a caste hindu a sense of superiority (did I say, Howard Becker's Labelling theory?) and done immense harm to the pysche of Dalits.
It is out of this sense of superiority that uppercaste came to impose their priorities and preferences on Dalits. The hate crime is just another offshoot of this mentality.
There is no relation between the caste and caliber or capacity. The hindus or for that matter are not genetically predisposed to perform better than Dalits. For me, ability depends on access. Had it not been the case, every born hindu will be gifted and meritorious. On that note, the recent blast of indian space shuttle (223 crores in few seconds), counts so much for meritorcracy. I might sound antinational, but give me an example why I should feel national pride?.
Come on, give me a break you freaks!!!
Sudarshan Kurwadkar, Ph.D., CHMM
Environmental Engineer II
Missouri Department of Natural Resources
1738 East Elm Street
Jefferson City, MO 65101
Ph: 573-746-6008
Fax: 573-526-5268

Anonymous said...

Mr.Kurwadkar, you are perfectly justified in feeling this way. And no, you are not being anti-national in any way; in the US, being anti-national implies being against the US.

I think the key is not to tar everyone with the same brush. There is a reason these crimes are public today, and not hushed up.

Anonymous said...

There is nothing 'high' about the murderers here. They belong to the burning pit of hell.

Anonymous said...

Dear Sudarshan,
I fully agree with you.
Caste hindus in India (also in Nepal,Srilanka and in other parts of the world in more subtle way) are dangerous idoits. The only way to control them is to try them in special courts and hang them if possible in public for the crimes they are committing agaist the native Indians in the scheduled list. There is no place for casteism in any society. In spite of the education in the media for the last 50 years and also by leaders like Dr.Ambedkar,EVR Periar and many others the caste hindus does not seem to improve. Only the implementation of the law will root out this situation.It is only a matter of time that all the caste hindus will be in jail. I am also in the US and proud to a be a dravidian in the scheduled list. I admire the genious of Dr.Ambedkar in creating the reservation (many caste hindus are included in the category). The reservation should remain for another 3000 years for the SC and ST since the brahmins particularly had sole reservation for the last 3000 years ever since they invaded India and subjugated the cultured Dravidians.The caste Hindus seem to be idiots who do not know the Indian history THAT is riddled with caste. Reservations cannot be removed until inequality ceases to exist. Brahmins have introduced caste system in the first place. Screwed up everyone’s happiness and looted India for over 3000 years. They should not cry against reservation.All Brahmins should go back the black sea region, to Iran or Germany. See their white and pink skin colour in the hot Indian sub continent. Now see a Dravidian the typical dark colour? Does it not tell you the Brahmins are Aryans invaded and settled in India? Shame all these anti reservationists.

Anonymous said...

Reservations only lead to a decline in quality. Even the most staunch supporters of reservation refuse to go to an SC/ST doctor when it comes to treatment of their own illnesses, claiming those who became doctors with lower marks are obviously not as good.

Instead of reservations, the govt should provide financial support to backward castes so they can enter top rankings in merit lists, and get qualifications on pure merit basis.

And I don't know how true this idea is that backward castes are indigenous, and others foreign. Even in other societies, like Iran or Britain, there was class stratification, that had crystallized into strong caste-like boundaries before other influences (in Iran's case, it was Islam) introduced equality in society.

Regardless, every Brahmin knows that India is not their future, and are migrating out. So you are welcome to your 'native' land.

mh said...

A strong moving report. You have a lot of courage to write this.

Anonymous said...

The killings are really horrible.. But from the fact that it was reported after one month itself has lead to supsicion, that there are some anti-nationals behind this conspiracy.

The mainstream media has been hijacked by the leftist and anti-nationals. So, after the CBI investigation only, it will be clear whether it was done by UpperCaste or not.. Before, that, dont spit on the caste lines. There are lot of clashes among the dalit groups itself..

but whatever, the criminals should be prosecuted.

MellowDrama said...

And to think I didn't even know about half of what you have written. News that make headlines get their 15 seconds of (in)fame and then disappear into oblivion. I have hardly ever seen any daily except perhaps the Indian Express actually following up stories. As for television, the less said the better. TRPs determine news content...I didn't even KNOW Gudiya committed suicide and her 'husbands' remarried. Honestly it is only the Mattos/Lals of the world, the urbane presentable professionals who get the media in a spin. Rural stories who cares?! As for untouchabilty, we living snug in our cities are untouched by it right?

Anonymous said...

mellow drama, I didn't even know Gudiya died on New Year's Day this year till you mentioned it and I googled for it. Very sad. But I am not Muslim, and if Muslim women are okay with such treatment, what can anyone do? Even people like Shabana Azmi and other social activists who are Muslim haven't said anything about this, so who are we, non-Muslim and common people to say anything about Islamic law which these people accept.

Apparently, Arif's family only wanted Gudiya to save face and keep the family prestige. Once they won the judgement, they didn't give a damn for her. Anyway, you can read about how she met her end by googling.

One thing is that "secular" media will never highlight such problems, because they belong in Muslim community.

Anonymous said...

Let's take the story on face value and react only to that. Let's not add the tag of 'caste'. It is we who are recognizing the tag of caste. That is why it exists. The crime is not against a caste or a community, but against humanity in general.

How many murders other than the 'glamorous' and the famous, make it to the headlines? Many people have been gang-raped, and murdered. For your information, the Jalianwallabagh massacre did not make it to any of the headlines among the National papers for more than a month. Was that caste atrocity or a hindu atrocity or Aryan atrocity? The media has yet again added a tag to make the news spicy. The real news is: 'A poor Indian family destroyed in feudal dispute' and it actually reads 'A dalit family, massacred by caste-hindus'.

A family of Sikhs was murdered (women raped) in Punjab by another wealthy Sikh family over land disputes (similar to this), sometime last year too, when I visited India. But this incident didn't make it to National papers, was confined to Panjab dailies, reported in one national daily three months later and later fizzled out. In that case, the entire family was wiped out. No caste tag is attached in that case. Is this a caste atrocity?

Let's be practical and realistic. Caste is hardly the reason for murders. It is absurd to say that the minority 'Brahmins', can subjugate a 'cultured' (presumably more 'advanced') land of 'indegenious' people, and kill them.

Let is wake up to the reason for atrocities like these and try to understand why they happen and not attach a 'dalit' or a 'caste' tag to it. Note that the news item is actually about a family (poor in all respects) being tortured. Also note how the 'dalit' image is used to gain publicity for the incident. Poor Bhaiyyalal is not spared of his dalit image even by his own 'dalit' community and mainly by the media.

If all murders of a section of one community were to be vented on an entire community, who will vent the vengence of Jews and on whom? Should all Christians be exterminated? Be practical. What you propose as 'hanging all caste hindus' - supposedly 'Brahmins' - in your words, is not possible and is just as illegal as the Jew holocaust or this Kherlanji case.

Finally, who is to certify that the murderers in this case were 'Brahmin's. I am not an Indian - rather British, but consider myself a Buddhist. In what I witness in India, brahmins are by NO chance at all the perpetrators of crime. I find them perfectly peaceful - more perhaps than even Jews - for these people don't even touch meat. As against the popular opinion, they are NOT filthy rich, rather moderately provided. They are very philosophical, often spiritual, peace-loving, hard-working and very friendly people. I would not say that they are genetically pre-disposed to be smarter, but given their general economic status, it is rather surprising that being a minority in India, not having minority rights (or reservation, which is more a system to prevent them in their progress, than to help 'dalits') - they are so intelligent and productive. Not that 'dalits' are not equally intelligent, but they have a system to help them grow. But these 'brahmins' have a system to work against. The reservation does nothing but brand a 'dalit' as a dalit for life, and eventually gain more respect for the intellect of the general Indian community that has to work against the reservation.

In all my visits to India and in all that I witness here, the most prominent thing I can see is economic disparity. The economically stable has always oppressed the poor in all cultures in the world. This has been a historical thing. Just note that in this story too, the case is actually between a wealthy, well-connected family and a very poor family. What is confusing in the story is that the wealthy are 'landlords'. Then why the dispute? Were the poor the tenants?

Again note that it is rather not a land dispute, but a dispute over something else, which is not surfacing here. Who beat up Siddharth and why? The wealthy have always oppressed the poor. The reason is usually a cheap thrill. There are the following kinds of thrills that humans generally enjoy

1. sexual
2. at the expense of others
3. by titillating oneself
4. intellectual
5. acrobatic

Of all these, the second is the most henious. It is not something to do with caste. Everyone has it. Even Sudarshan has a desire to hang all 'brahmins' which he would perhaps like. We kill insects and pleasure in their death. From Muslim fundamentalists to Brahmins, Jews and Dalits, everyone can have this vanadal pleasure. The problem is when this cheap thrill surfaces and manifests itself in this form.

But what is the solution? Destruction of buses, public transport, riots, killings? Is this the solution? It is hard to beleive that the 'cultured' 'indegenious' 'Dravidian' community, is openly destroying everything. Is the killing of 'Brahmins' (whom you call foreigners) the solution?

I wonder if even Bhaiyyalal would be happy with the riots and public transport destruction. The poor guy would perhaps be scared to go anywhere now. The landlords can kill him anytime if he discloses his location and this time in a riot, and no one would even notice. How much protection is he offered?

Anonymous said...

Check this website. I posted above that it is questionable if really the murderers and rapists were 'upper-caste' Hindus and if really the murderers were 'Brahmins'. To quote a 'dalit' academician Bhau Lokhande:

"In Nagpur it is no Dalit-Maratha divide but a Dalit-OBC divide.

It was members of the OBC Kunbi community who killed the Dalit family in Khairlanji."

Note this page. The OBC Kunbi family denies all knowledge of any murders. This is why the Brahmin community gets to be th brunt of all the woes. In many ways the Brahmins in India are not very diferent from the Jews in erstwhile Germany. Both are/were blamed for all the ills of their country. Both are/were disowned by the people of their own country. But who cares. The word "upper-caste" means 'Brahmin' for most people. And the Kunbis who allegedly were involved are actually OBCs!!

Is it for the OBCs that the Indian government wanted to have more reservations? I can see what reservation can do to people and this is why 'dalits' SC/ST are never trusted!

shraddha said...

Hallo,
If you check the original report prepared by the officials of the Govt of Maharashtra at
www.Yashada.org/Adm_info/Bhandara_Report.pdf
you will realise the true and heinous nature of this social conspiracy against Dalits who want upward mobility.
The officials who prepared this report are themselves taking flogging from the highest officials for releasing the document on the official website.
I feel ashamed to be called a human.
shraddha

Sudarshan Kumar, Bangalore said...

Hi Sudarshan,

I wonder what this 'national pride' stuff is all about in any case - whether it's India or the US or any other damn country.

National boundaries are merely notional geo-political boundaries created by the thirst for power and ostensibly (by some more well-meaning 'leaders') to better administer/govern/rule/provide for the people within those boundaries.

We can't wish away the centuries of opression by any 'superior' force - white over black, romans over christians, christians over muslims, christians vs christians, muslims vs muslims, japanese over koreans and of course 'upper castes' over dalits - the list can go on.

Reactionary and counter-reactionary trends are only to be expected - compounded by the lust for land, money and even women (who end up as the soft targets).

Human beings will need to go and grow beyond these boundaries and animal instincts, help their 'under-served' fellow beings learn and think better (not brainwash), collaborate more than compete - although competing is good for the development of the brain and other internal resources, and think more and judge less.

Above all, we need to pool our resources (I'm not talking about money here) to work for real economic growth that will empower and be driven by all including the poorest - that will result in the multiplier effect creating a virtuous cycle.

With the typical approach of politicians around the world - 'Get me out of this crisis' - these fires will keep flaring up all over the world - whether it's Paris or Khairlanji.

The micro-issues (I'm not trivialising the brutal acts by those animals) of course need to be redressed - but we also need to work on the larger goal of becoming human.

Anonymous said...

there is only one way to respond to this. fight back. dont sit back and watch.no longer can we wait and watch the atrocities. too long has this community suffered.centuries of atrocities on dalits has been going on. time of redemption is near. fight unitedly and justice shall be brought to the thousands of souls who suffered because of this. a fitting reply should be given so that nobody ever dare to touch any dalit again.

K.M.Venugopalan said...

The Khairlanji episode is characterised by the very body language of caste system. The whole village virtually partook teching'em a lesson by torturing,parading naked and gangraping women and finally lynching and mutilating the bodies. But for the fact that one of the family member happened to survive to tell the story,the rest of the world would not have known anything. Even worse is that the local administration willingly tried to protect the culprits
It is yet to be seen to which extent even the partial responses of progressive forces to Khairlanji will serve an eye opener to the casteist, bigotist Hindu Indian psyche as well as theose presiding the executive, judicial and legislative wings of our "largest democracy"

Anonymous said...

hello everyone,
My name is SRIDHAR,and i am a BRAHMIN. First of all ,the nature of the crime is truly horrifying.The deaths of a mother and her daughter,in front of the head of the family,in such a manner,fills my heart with unspeakable grief.Clearly,the death sentence is the only punishment,for the perpetrators of these crimes,whatever religion,caste or creed,they belong to.
Now,coming to the coverage of this horrifying event,the entire reason for the dispute in the first place has not been revealed.While my congratulations are with the author for highlighting this atrocious event,i would have expected him to be far more elaborate in his reporting,when it comes to reporting events such as this,for they stand in danger of unfairly prejudicing one community against the other.
Have all the facts of the case been thoroughly investigated?The tone of the article seems to be more prejudiced than objective?
When the crime is purported to have been commited by upper caste hindus,why is it naturally assumed to be Brahmins?
Brahmins are peace-loving people and anybody who has come into contact with them would know that they are utterly incapable of such atrocities.The rowdies and goondas,in society come from all communities,but rarely or never at all from a brahmin community.If at all,a Brahmin takes up arms,then more often than not, it is for the cause of the nation.

Today the state of the Brahmin community is very miserable .The majority of them are struggling to make both ends meet,and yet can rely only on their education to survive or their knowledge of vedic rites and rituals,which are fast becoming obsolete.There r no privileges provided for these wonderful people,by any government,to make life easier.In short,it is a very desperate situation they are in and yet the other communities,keep on crying ,complaining and blaming them?Shame on you all.

Now coming to the gentleman,in the U.S or from somewhere,who said that brahmins are foreigners.Is he out of his mind or was he under the influence of alcohol when posting his comments?this is nothing but stupid bigotry.He obviously knows nothing about the history or culture of india and presents himself,and his community in a poor light.

As for the gentleman,who said that Brahmins,should be hanged,well,what should i say?
Brahmins,lead a very simple life,and are peace loving.Their contribution,to the growth of india,in all spheres,has been nothing short of fantastic.They have been the torch-bearers of indian civilisation,and are not at all,i repeat,not at all,conflict oriented.

But,if u talk of hangings etc,then LISTEN TO MY WORDS LOUD AND CLEAR:WE R PEACE LOVING ,BUT NOT COWARDS.IF YOU WANT A WAR,THEN A WAR SHALL IT BE.YOU MIGHT BE MORE IN NUMBERS,BUT WE WOULD EXTERMINATE YOU COMPLETELY OR GO DOWN FIGHTING TO THE LAST MAN.TAKING UP OF ARMS IS NOT NEW TO US.WE HAVE DONE IT MANY TIMES IN THE PAST IN THE DEFENCE OF OUR COUNTRY.SO U R QUITE WELCOME

Finally,my humble plea to th author of this article.As u can see for yourself,these kinds of articles would definitely incite passions in large sections of the people.Therefore,please try to be as accurate and objective in your reportings,for ultimately,the very prestige of the country is at stake and it could do incalculable damage to the relations between certain communities.

THANK YOU.
SRIDHAR ADIVI

Anonymous said...

I ahve been following the Khairanjali killings for a while now, and I feel sad that the first time I read about this was in a foreign website (apparently our big national newspapers were so involved with the Lall case, that this gruersome heinous act did not deserve more than a cursory mention.) Has any further action been taken in this case other than the prelimnary arrest of the suspects involved? Due to a lack of info. I really wonder if anything has happened. I know this is not good/ fair, but the first moment I read this about this incident, I felt such a deep shame to be Indian. I know one cannot judge a whole country by the acts of some, but maybe its about time the Indian media (read TOI) stop going berserk about india Shining, when in reality large parts of India are eons away from basic education and comforts, and obviously have not the faintest idea of democracy and equality.

I do suspect that the people who write these articles have never even left the comforts of their big metropolitan cities!

scrabble81 said...

Khairanjali massacre is most cruel and inhuman act in history of highly developed Maharashtra state of India . Dalits is label given by Hindus to lowest casts of their religion. Most of them are converted to Buddhism . Millions of thanks to Respected B. R. ambedkar. But still Hindus are not ready to digest that they are not part of their religion or cast system any more. As far as other comments goes regarding living of Brahmins and SC/ST caste. I am firmly state that I have not seen any Brahmin or upper caste hindus who I could categorise as miserably poor. Only because of reservation SC/ST could come in main stream of society.This is true Indians have feudal mentality and live two lives.They are not brave enough to confess that we believe in castism and are maintaining cruel mentality of castism. Hinduism's castism is root cause of inequality and discrimination in India. I am proud of Indian tradition and culture but hate this cruel system. All this mentally sick Hindus sucks.

Anonymous said...

Sir,
I will like bringing to notice that the criminals of the messacre are OBC and not caste Hinds. the very full form of OBC is OTHER 'BACKWARD' CLASSES.

these are the castes of Hindu religion that were not included in the Schedule (and thus are no SCs), but were categorised as OBC.

as such, its about OBCs raping the SCs, Hindu is not a caste. Moreover, even when the upper caste are involved, the criminals do belong to martial races, and not brahmins.