Ground Report: Gujjars, Dalits Clash in Delhi Over Land Dispute on 15 August
The Jatavs alleged that casteist slurs were hurled at them whereas the Gujjar family claimed to own the plot.
A land dispute in Delhi's Tughlaqabad village on the afternoon of 15 August led to a scuffle between a Gujjar family and members of the Jatav community.
Of those injured from the Jatav community, one man's leg was broken. He was suffering from polio and had trouble walking anyway. Two women and a man from the same community sustained head injuries and needed stitches. A few others suffered minor injuries.
Members of the Jatav community alleged that casteist slurs and abuses were hurled against them. The women claimed that people from the opposite group ripped their clothes and hit them on their private parts.
Accordingly, a case was registered the same day at Govind Puri police station under sections 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 341 (wrongful restraint), 354 (outraging modesty of a woman), 509 (insult to modesty of a woman), 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting, armed with a deadly weapon), 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code. The accused were also booked under the Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities Act) under Section 3 (1) (ii) and (iii) and (x).
Section 3 (1) (ii) - Acts with intent to cause injury, insult or annoyance to any member of a Scheduled Caste, or a Scheduled Tribe by dumping excreta, waste matter, carcasses or any other obnoxious substance in his premises or neighbourhood.
Section 3 (1) (iii) - Forcibly removes clothes from the person of a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe or parades him naked or with painted face or body or commits any similar act which is derogatory to human dignity.
Section 3 (1) (x) - Intentionally insults or intimidates with intent to humiliate a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe in any place within public view.
The punishment for all these is imprisonment for a term that shall not be less than six months, but which may extend to five years with a fine.
Police officers from the station confirmed that while the investigation is on, the accused have not been arrested yet.
To understand what happened, The Quint met the relatives of the accused, the injured and the police.
What Happened on 15 August?
Chandrapal, 56, the President of Jatav Mohalla, explained that the community had decided to hoist a flag next to the statue of B R Ambedkar on a nearby plot. "Around 25 of us went to the spot, dug up the area to fix the mast, and hoisted the Tricolor when the men from the Gujjar community removed the flag and started abusing us," he said.
While the men from the Gujjar community believe that they own the land, the Jatav community contends that the land was being used for social purposes by them only for a while. "We also have a statue of B R Ambedkar there and cultural events, like weddings, would happen there," Chandrapal said.
But in reality, the land belongs to neither of them.
"An enquiry has revealed that both the parties have an old dispute over this plot of land, which actually belongs to the Archaeological Survey of India," said R P Meena, Deputy Commissioner of Police (southeast).
What Do the Jatavs Allege?
Chandrapal, who owns a small clothes shop in the Jatav locality, said the Gujjar men, who are classified as Other backward Classes, believe they can oppress them just because they belong to a 'higher caste'.
Some of the things he alleges the men said are:
"Ch*****yo yahaan kyu aa rahain ho? Kya hak hai tumhaara?" (Why are you here? This is not yours.)
"Tum ch***** ho. Tum jhanda nahi fehra sakte." (You cannot hoist a flag.)
Forty-year-old Ravi Kumar, who was hit on his head, said right before they started hitting the people, they abused, "Dedh ch**** ho tum (You are the worst kind of low caste, they started beating us up afterwards.)"
"Those men have usurped the land. It does not belong to them. Then what gives them the right to decide what to do with it? Isn't that unjust?", Kumar, who works as a salesperson, asks.
Speaking about how he was attacked, he said one man held his hand and the other landed a blow on his head with a stone. "Please see the injuries on our head and body," he said.
Particularly targeted towards women, Chandrapal alleged that they abused: "Tumhari ye toh budhi ho gayi hai apni ladkiyon ko bhejo." (These women are now aged, send the younger girls here.)
The relevant sections from the FIR come from what allegedly happened with 50-year-old Kamlesh and 60-year-old Shiela.
"I was moving away from the scuffle when I saw the men attacking my friend Savitri's son. I went ahead to stop them but I was pushed around inappropriately. See, they tore my clothes as well," Kamlesh said, pointing towards her ripped clothes.
"Then they hit me on my head with a stone and I started bleeding. The injuries required several stitches," Kamlesh said.
Sheila said she was also inappropriately touched on her chest. She showed us how she was attacked deep inside her blouse, on her arm.
"I want the men to be arrested," she said.
Maya (62) was also hit on her head. She said that casteist slurs were a norm in the area and that Sunday's incident was just a tipping point.
Charan Singh (47) sustained the worst injury. Singh's right leg was broken. He was already a polio patient.
While he was admitted to a hospital, Vicky, who had just returned from his father's side, said, "My father is angry. He says we can't keep quiet otherwise this will only strengthen them. He wants them to be arrested, otherwise their attacks on our community will keep rising," he said.
The doctors said Singh will need a plate inserted in his broken leg.
While these are allegations regarding the abuse and physical violence, the Jatav community said that the accused also constantly dumped waste next to Ambedkar's statue. A woman showed The Quint several videos of the accused doing so. This explained the concerned sections in the FIR.
What Do Members of the Gujjar Community Say?
After a few hours of tracking, we found the home of one of the accused's father, Rajbeer Gujjar. It is a three-storey building in the nearby area, called Kuan (well) Mohalla.
One of his neighbours, whom we later found out, was their relative. He led us into the home of the accused. The main door was already open. "They will take an hour or so to return. You can ask me whatever you want to know," Bhola Gujjar said.
Bhola claimed that the land has been owned by Rajbeer and his family for decades. "The Jatavs are fraudulently trying to take possession of the land. The area was earlier used by the Gujjar family to graze their cattle and grow crops. Since I was born, and I am over 50, this has been their land," he said. When we asked if they had papers for the land, he scoffed and said, "No one has papers here. But it is still ours."
He also asked how could four persons (Rajbeer and his three sons) beat up everyone? "You tell me, how can four persons thrash an entire community that is together and cause so much damage?"
When asked if the family had fled the spot, he said all of them had gone for some work. This included Rajbeer, his wife, and his sons.
As we were talking to Bhola, two policemen came looking for Rajbeer and his sons. This seemed to rattle Bhola. The cops stayed for a while and left as the accused were not home. This reporter was asked to leave soon after.
The two policemen as well as the SHO confirmed that investigations were on and that no one had been arrested yet. "We will question them first," one of the cops said.
Friction Stays, Matters Are Tense
The two communities have been at loggerheads over this piece of land for several years. This is the first time, however, that the matter has blown up like this.
Now, no one is allowed to walk up to the Ambedkar statue on the plot where the incident occurred. There is a lot of security in the area.
At the core of the issue is the use of the land, which does not belong to either community. According to records, the plot – which is near the Tughlaqabad fort – belongs to the Archaeological Survey of India. The Jatavs had installed the Ambedkar statue on the plot around six months ago, but soon after that the Gujjars allegedly started dumping waste on the plot.
BSP leaders said that if the police do not take swift action, they will resort to a bigger protest. Kumar, who was sustained head injuries, said, "We shall start by gheraoing the Govindpuri police station."
Pushpa Vivek, 60, president of the Rashtriya Dalit Mahila Aandolan, said, "An investigation must be conducted and the accused should be arrested. The fact is that it has been 70 years but there is no equality. When will we be treated equally in this country? We are expected to live in dirt, without water and in neglected areas. Do we not have the right to make money and eat? You tell us, had we hit the upper-caste women or men would they (cops) not have arrested many of us by now?"
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