Bajana Kalan: The viral video of a Dalit youth being stripped and beaten in a rural Sonepat shed brought swift action by Haryana Police, but it has also ripped open the caste divide in the village for all to see.
Bajana Kalan, a village about 27 km from Sonepat, is a settlement of about 300 Dalit households. The incident in question, the assault on a 19-year old Dalit youth Ankit, took place on 2 June, but the video was widely circulated on social media only this week, prompting police to arrest two Jat men, identified as Mohit Kadyan and Jitendra Kadyan, from the same village.
“We came to know of this video only when police visited us,” said Ankit’s mother Sheela, 37, who lives in a small house that accommodates five joint families. “We did not see the video. We do not even want to see it. Our neighbours have come and told us how Ankit was beaten up. Every time I hear this, my blood boils.”
‘They threatened me’
Ankit, who has studied up to Class 12, said the two accused were forcing him to work on their farm and tend to their buffaloes even though he had just got a job in a cellphone screen manufacturing company four months ago.
He added that he had known Mohit from their school days, but they hadn’t seen much of each other since he left the village for senior secondary education and later got busy with his job.
According to Ankit, on 2 June, the two picked him up from his home on a motorcycle and took him to their farm.
“Little did I know that they would torture me like that,” he said. “I was beaten up for four hours with a wooden bat and forced to strip and dance,” Ankit recalled in a whispering tone, sitting in a room on the roof of his house.
“They threatened me not to tell anyone about this. If I did, they said, they would do the same to my mother and father. They also threatened that they would get me raped by a group of men.”
The video showed Ankit standing against a wall with his pants down and crying, and the two men beating and threatening him while filming the entire encounter on a cell phone. “You will have to work with our buffaloes and in our farms,” one of them is heard saying. Earlier, Ankit is heard addressing them as “brother” even as the two men say “pants down, pants down”.
They were apparently angry with Ankit because he had blocked their numbers on his cell phone. “How dare you block our number?” one of them is heard asking. “How did you become so important?”
Speaking to ThePrint, Ankit said he didn’t tell anyone about the assault when he returned home. He went to Delhi for treatment of the injuries on his back, and then to his uncle’s house in another village for recovery.
“When I returned home finally, I heard that the video had gone viral,” Ankit said.
‘Took immediate action’
Haryana Police told ThePrint that they took action as soon as the video went viral.
“Haryana Police… arrested the accused Mohit Kadyan and Jitendra Kadyan on 25 June,” said an officer at the Ganaur police station near Bajana Kalan. “An FIR has been registered under the SC/ST Act… The matter is still being investigated,” the officer added.
Ankit’s father Rishi Pal, 45, said they were sure police would take the case to its logical conclusion.
“We believe in the law,” he told ThePrint. “We are getting the advice of some social workers and lawyers from the Dalit community who are now visiting us… But we are not getting provoked.
“We are poor people who just manage to scrape by. I have three more children to look after,” he added.
Bajana Kalan a Jat-dominated village, is currently under its first-ever Dalit sarpanch, Ram Chandra. According to local residents, villagers make casteist references when they speak about him.
Outside the sarpanch’s home, two elderly men told ThePrint that Mohit and Jitendra had also beaten up a blacksmith’s child but the case was “settled” by the panchayat, and no formal police complaint made.
The Ganaur police officer quoted above confirmed that the two men had a criminal record, including alleged involvement in the production of illegal liquor in Ghaziabad.
Police in Haryana are now trying to determine how the video went viral this week. A local social worker said one of the accused had shown the video to a young woman who had resisted them, to threaten her with similar treatment.
Villagers are trying hard to avoid giving a caste angle to the incident but Ankit’s cousin Pradeep said it was difficult to not do so. “We are not making it a caste issue, but everyone knows, had that video not gone viral, police would have harassed us. In such cases, police does not even register an FIR,” Pradeep said.
“If it were a Jat man in Ankit’s place,” added Sheela, “would they have the courage to beat him like this?”
Mohit’s mother said she had heard about the video but not seen it. “It is a matter of shame for us,” she added. “What can we say?”
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