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'Broke Every Bone in My Body': 'Attack' by Rajasthan MLA Haunts Dalit Engineer

Harshadipati Valmiki was allegedly assaulted by MLA Malinga for disrupting power supply to a 'Thakur' village.

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(This story was first published on 29 October 2023 and is being republished in light of Congress' Girraj Singh Malinga, MLA from Bari in Rajasthan's Dholpur joining the BJP. Malinga was accused of assaulting Harshadipati Valmiki, a Dalit engineer with the Rajasthan power board.)

The morning of 28 March 2022 was business as usual for Harshadipati Valmiki, a 28-year-old Assistant Engineer with the power department in Rajasthan's Dholpur, until Girraj Singh Malinga — a local MLA from the Congress party — turned up at his office, unannounced.

"I was in a meeting with some senior officials when the MLA, along with a few others barged into my cabin. There was a sudden, awkward silence. He leaned against a chair, picked it up and said...teri itni himmat ki tu thakuron ke gaon ke connection katega? (how dare you cut the power supply of a Thakur village). Then, he threw that chair at my face and his men started beating me up with sticks, bats, rods, and whatever else they could find. They broke every bone in my body and hit me just as much as anybody could hit anyone. And then, they left me to die. People who were in that room with me ran away to save their lives," alleged Harshadipati, who at the time publishing this story had spent 580 days seeking treatment in Jaipur's Sawai Man Singh (SMS) Hospital.

Harshadipati Valmiki was allegedly assaulted by MLA Malinga for disrupting power supply to a 'Thakur' village.

Harshadipati had alleged that the MLA and his men, after assaulting him non-stop for 30 minutes, left him to die.

(Illustration: Vibhushita Singh/The Quint)

The MLA accused of assaulting Harshadipati, Congress' Girraj Singh Malinga, a three-time legislator from Dholpur's Bari constituency, is again eyeing a party ticket ahead of the 2023 state Assembly elections. He has consistently denied the allegations as "baseless".
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Harshadipati who suffered 22 fractures in the incident, meanwhile, spends most of his time staring at his leg, covered with metal braces, wondering when will he finally get to go home.

"They assaulted me for at least 30 minutes. In fact, after leaving me to die they even came back to check if I am actually dead or not. They saw me struggling to reach for water and directed some casteist slurs at me. The physical injuries I have endured will probably heal with time but what I'll never forget is the moment when the MLA stood next to me with his foot partially stamping my face and neck. How can a human being do this to another human being?" he asked.

19 Months and Counting: The Case File

An FIR was registered in connection with the case on 29 March 2022, a day after the alleged assault, at Dholpur's Bari police station.

Filed under Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections 143 (unlawful assembly), 332 (assaulting public servant on duty), 353 (preventing public servant from discharge of his duty), 504 (insult with intent to provoke breach of peace), 506 (criminal intimidation) and relevant sections of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, the FIR named MLA Malinga and Samir Khan, a Councillor from Ward no. 2 in Bari as the accused in the case.

Later sections amounting to attempt to murder were also added to the FIR.

"...when they were hitting me, I pleaded them to stop. I even told the MLA that I was his son's age and requested him to let me go. Just then, a man in a yellow shirt pointed a country-made pistol to my head. I stopped talking and they continued beating me," alleged the FIR, based on a complaint filed by Harshadipati.
Harshadipati Valmiki was allegedly assaulted by MLA Malinga for disrupting power supply to a 'Thakur' village.

One of Rajasthan's smallest districts, Dholpur shares its border with Madhya Pradesh.

(Illustration: Vibhushita Singh/The Quint)

Over a month after filing of the FIR, on 11 May 2022, Malinga, in a dramatic turn of events, surrendered before the Jaipur Police Commissioner. While addressing a press conference outside the Commissionerate he said that the accusations against him were false and Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot had asked him to participate in the probe.

"The complaint by the engineer said that the public thrashed him but the case wasn’t lodged despite it being such a big issue, but then he named me. It was done on the direction of a senior police official. The CM said that every day the news is being reported in the media. He asked (me) to surrender and I did," the MLA had alleged.

A day later, a local court in Dholpur ordered that the MLA be sent to judicial custody. Malinga, however, tested positive for Covid and was kept at a hospital. Within a week of his arrest, he was granted bail by the High Court.

"It's been over 19 months and the police is yet to file an FIR in the case," said Jagrati Valmiki, Harshadipati's elder sister. "He (Malinga) didn't spend a day in prison for whatever he did. The entire system is shielding him. What message does this send to the society?" she questioned. "Forget punishing him, the government is, in fact, rewarding Malinga. He is addressing road shows with the CM, walking with Rahul Gandhi in the Bharat Jodo Yatra. Are we to assume that there is no justice for us here?" Jagrati added.

Right after he got bail from the High Court, Malinga addressed a public gathering where he said that if government officers cross their limits, he and his men too will not think twice before "gouging their eyes out."

"My fight is for the people. If anybody dares to trouble my people or as much as look at them with bad intention, I will gouge their eyes out," the MLA said.

On 13 August 2023, another FIR was filed on the basis of a complaint by Jaspal Singh, an eyewitness of the case, at the Bari police station. Singh accused aides of MLA Malinga of threatening him against giving his testimony in the court.

As of publishing, no chargesheet had been filed in connection with the case.

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Caste, Power, and Crime: What Transpired in Dholpur

The easternmost and smallest district of Rajasthan, Dholpur is located on the bank of the Chambal river and shares its border with Madhya Pradesh's Morena district.

"I grew up in Jaipur and am the only person in my family to have a government job. So when I was told I will be posted in Bari, I got excited and thought that I'll get to learn a lot in a rural setting," said Harshadipati as he began to think about his days in Dholpur.

"People in some villages around Bari think that free electricity is their right and if the state government isn't giving it, they can steal illegally or abstain from paying bills despite repeated warnings. The local MLAs, while campaigning for elections promise them that come what may they will ensure that the villagers won't be asked to pay electricity bills. In such a situation if a government officer, that too a Dalit, goes to the village and asks them to clear their bills, they of course won't like it."
Harshadipati Valmiki
Harshadipati Valmiki was allegedly assaulted by MLA Malinga for disrupting power supply to a 'Thakur' village.

In Dholpur's Bari, Harshadipati often faced casteist slurs. "...people objected when I visited certain villages for inspection. 'How dare you enter a Thakur village' they'd ask," he alleged to The Quint.

(Illustration: Vibhushita Singh/The Quint)

Harshadipati, whose father has been associated with the Congress party in the past, said he was aware that doing his job in that area will lead him to making enemies but what happened with him was not something he could have ever imagined.

"I tried engaging with the villagers, talking to them peacefully but eventually when they didn't pay the bills, we were forced to act. I was used to everyday casteism but never thought they'll come for my life. Weeks before this incident, some people had tried to intimidate me and my team when they got upset with us 'entering a Thakur village'. Such instances were common and I had grown used to them," he added.

Harshadipati Valmiki was allegedly assaulted by MLA Malinga for disrupting power supply to a 'Thakur' village.

X-Ray sheets showing injuries sustained by Harshadipati during the assault.

(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)

Harshadipati Valmiki was allegedly assaulted by MLA Malinga for disrupting power supply to a 'Thakur' village.

X-Ray sheets showing injuries sustained by Harshadipati during the assault.

(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)

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Numbers Behind The Atrocities

Harshadipati's case is not in isolation. Rajasthan, over the years, has gained the reputation of being one of the most unsafe states for people belonging to the Scheduled Castes.

As per data by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the state reported 7,524 cases of atrocities against SCs in 2021, 6,895 cases in 2020, 6,659 cases in 2019, and 4,490 cases in 2018.

Moreover, despite the rising number of cases, conviction rate remains low.

As per a Lok Sabha reply by Minister of State (MoS) for Social Justice and Empowerment, Ramdas Athavale, the number of convictions under crime against SCs were 572 in 2020, 927 in 2019, and 597 in 2018 — which means a conviction rate of less than 13 percent.

In recent years, several instances of caste atrocities from Rajasthan have lead to nationwide outrage. In August 2022, a 9-year-old Dalit boy Indra Meghwal died after he was allegedly assaulted by his school teacher over drinking water from an earthen pot “reserved for upper-caste teachers”.

Similarly, in March 2022, 28-year-old Jitendra Meghwal was stabbed to death in Pali district, allegedly for aspiring to a lifestyle like the "upper castes".

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2023 Elections and a 'Dalit Manifesto'

"What happened in cases such as Indra Meghwal and Jitendra Meghwal has widespread resulted in anger among the voters," pointed out Dalit rights activist Bhanwar Meghwanshi.

Meghwanshi was part of a committee that drafted a 'Dalit manifesto' ahead of the state Assembly elections. The manifesto was prepared after a month-long yatra across the State by a group called the Anusuchit Jati Adhikar Abhiyan Rajasthan (AJAAR). It lists several demands and suggestions related to issues concerning social and economic justice for Dalits, land resources, safety of Dalit women, and role of government agencies among others.

According to the 2011 census, Dalits account for 17.8 percent of Rajasthan's population, and 34 Assembly seats are reserved for the Scheduled Caste category. In 2018, Congress won 19 out of these 34 seats, whereas the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won 12 seats. Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) also won 4 percent vote and six seats. All six BSP MLAs, however, later defected to Congress.

Meghwanshi, who participated in AJAAR's the month-long yatra told The Quint that several activists will screen the candidates fielded by various parties and check if they were involved in cases of atrocities against Dalits. "We will then demand parties to withdraw their candidature," he said.

Meanwhile in Jaipur, Harshadipati is almost confident of Malinga getting a ticket to contest the elections.

"I won't be surprised if he gets a ticket. What I've learnt in these 19 months is that our lives don't matter. If this could happen to me, an educated Dalit with a government job, I cannot even begin to this what happens to those who are less privileged. At least I was able to get a case registered. Atrocities against them probably never registered," he said.

Harshadipati Valmiki was allegedly assaulted by MLA Malinga for disrupting power supply to a 'Thakur' village.

Harshadipati who suffered 22 fractures in the incident, now spends most of his time staring at his leg, covered with metal braces, wondering when will he finally get to go home.

(Illustration: Vibhushita Singh/The Quint)

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