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‘He wanted water’: How Dalit boy’s death opened up caste fissures in Jalore village 

Inder Meghwal died Saturday — over 20 days after a teacher allegedly slapped him for drinking water from a clay pot.  The family accuses the police of coverup.

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Jalore: Outside the house of 9-year-old Inder Meghwal in Surana village in Jalore, there’s chaos. Hundreds of people have gathered there to demand justice for the 9-year-old Dalit boy who allegedly died Saturday after his teacher slapped him for drinking water out of a clay pot meant for the teacher.

The incident occurred on 20 July at Saraswati Vidya Mandir. a private school in the village.

“He slapped the boy so hard that he fell down,” Kheemaram Meghwal,  the child’s uncle, told ThePrint.

A meeting held at the house of Inder Meghwal | Praveen Jain | ThePrint
A meeting held at the house of Inder Meghwal | Praveen Jain | ThePrint

The teacher, Chail Singh, was arrested on murder charges as well as under sections of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes Atrocities) Prevention Act, 1989.  

As news of the child’s death spread, police suspended internet services in the area.  

The child’s family, meanwhile, accused the police of trying to cover up. They claim that the police tried to take away Kheemaram’s phone and the child’s medical reports when they were bringing back the child’s body from a hospital in Ahmedabad.

Kheemaram also claimed that Chail Singh offered to pay Rs  2.5 lakh to the family for the child’s treatment as hush money.

Jalore’s Additional Superintendent of Police Anukriti Ujjainia however claimed that the phone was taken away as a precaution to ensure the visuals uploaded of the child don’t cause any law and order problems. 

Medical reports were also returned to the family after the police took down details required for investigation, she told the crowd gathered outside the child’s house. 

“We are proactively working on this case. I made sure the FIR was filed, and have been in constant touch with the family,” Ujjainia told the crowd.

Jalore District Collector Nishant Jain told ThePrint that investigations were still ongoing. 

“The police is yet to find proof that the teacher kept a separate pot for water,” Jain said.  “It is possible that the child already had an ear infection and that a slap caused a fatal injury.”

The child was buried around 8.30 pm Sunday, the family said.

Also Read: Violence goes viral — Dalits in Rajasthan have a new tool against atrocities, their phones

The incident

Pavni Devi (left), the child's mother. mourns the death of her child in Jalore | Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint
Pavni Devi (left), the child’s mother. mourns the death of her child in Jalore | Praveen Jain | ThePrint

The family told ThePrint that they didn’t realise initially that the injury was internal. When the child continued to complain of pain in his ear, they took him to a hospital in Bagoda, which referred him to a hospital in Udaipur, which told them to take the child to Ahmedabad. It’s in Ahmedabad that the child died, the family told  ThePrint. 

Sukhram Khokhar, a member of the private school association, claimed that the allegation was “false” and that everyone in the school drank water from the same source. 

“This school has five teachers, out of which four are Dalit. There is one water tank from which everyone drinks. There was no separate pot kept for anyone else,” Khokhar told ThePrint, adding that Inder would come to school with a cotton piece stuffed into his ear because he was undergoing treatment for an ear infection. 

“All I want to say is that the investigation should be impartial,” he added. “The media simply wrote what the family said, without trying to find the truth.”

Arjun Rajpurohit, a former student of the school, also claimed that the school had one common water tank for everyone. 

Inder Meghwal's father after his son's death in Jalore | Praveen Jain | ThePrint
Inder Meghwal’s father after his son’s death in Jalore | Praveen Jain | ThePrint

Meanwhile, surrounded by hundreds of people gathered from the neighbouring village, police, and volunteers of the Bhim Sena — a Dalit organisation — the family demanded compensation of Rs 50 lakh, a government job for a member of the family. They also asked the administration to fast-track the case. 

The child’s mother was inconsolable — the last time she saw Inder, the youngest of her three sons, was on 20 July.

Kheemaram told ThePrint that there had been incidents of caste violence in the village, 

“Such incidents are very common in this village,” Kheemaram told ThePrint.  “What was his fault? He just drank some water.”

(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)

Also Read: Violence, ‘caste slurs, changed vibe’ — fallout in Delhi neighbourhood after Muslim-Dalit wedding


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