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Supreme Court Pleads Helplessness in Curbing Social Boycotts of Dalits

In a case involving the alleged boycott and violence affecting the Dalit community in Mirchpur, Haryana, the Supreme Court noted ruefully, that it is no position to pass an order granting relief from the ordeal.

Observing that there is no simple solution to end the social boycott affecting Dalits, the Court said that an order granting relief to Dalits would be ineffective. A bench of Justices M B Lokur and UU Lalit was hearing a public interest litigation which prayed for rehabilitation and resettlement for the members of Dalit community at the Mirchpur village in the district of Rohtak, Haryana.

The PIL was filed in the backdrop of a killing of an old man and his differently abled daughter by men who are alleged to be members of the dominant Jat community. This 2010 case is one among the many incidences of violence against the Dalits by the member of the higher castes in Haryana.  While these more than merely sporadic incidents are rife and have sparked fear in the Dalit community in Haryana, convictions in such cases has been abysmally low.

The counsel appearing for the State of Haryana was directed to apprise the bench as to the status of the report on the said incident, which is being probed by a judicial panel with Justice Iqbal Singh as its chairman.

Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing on behalf of the Dalit community of the village pointed that there is an atmosphere of fear and a prevailing threat of violence against the Dalits, in the village as the members of the dominant community feel that some members from their community have been convicted in the case because of the Dalits. This is in light of the fact that several appeals against the conviction of certain members of the dominant community are underway in the Delhi High Court, said the senior advocate.

Further, Mr.Gonsalves noted that since the entire state of Haryana is not hostile to the Dalit community, they should be granted land at a different place for shelter and housing. He argued that he will not pray that the Dalit community be rehabilitated in Delhi but in Haryana itself. However, the counsel appearing on behalf of the state of Haryana said that since there is a company of CRPF personnel stationed in the village from 2010, there have been no incidents of violence against the Dalit community.

Earlier, the top court had labelled the incident of caste violence as a “scar on the society” and had articulated its angst after the contemporary Hooda government had stated on record that the old man and his daughter were stuck in their hut after the perpetrators were set on fire, while the trial court ruled that their deaths did not amount to murder.

In the Delhi trial court judgment of September 24, 2011, 15 members of the Jat community had been held guilty for setting victim Tara Chand’s house on fire, causing the death of the father and daughter. 3 persons were also sentenced to life imprisonment for their hand in the killings in another judgment of a Delhi court in October 31, 2011, while five others were awarded sentences of varying jail terms. 7 other convicts were let off with one year probation, while 82 out of 97 accused were acquitted stating that the charges framed against them could not be proved beyond reasonable doubt.

by Siddhartha Singh.