Tuesday, October 4, 2011

[ZESTCaste] Mirchpur nurses its wounds, untouched by poll frenzy


Mirchpur nurses its wounds, untouched by poll frenzy
Pradeep Kaushal Posted online: Tue Oct 04 2011, 00:48 hrs
Mirchpur, Haryana : Part of the poll-bound Hisar Lok Sabha
constituency, Mirchpur looks an island of silence amid the cacophony
created by a high-voltage campaign all around. Fleet after fleet of
cars passes by but no candidate halts to seek votes for the October 13
bypoll, being held following the death of former chief minister Bhajan

"We don't want any politicians around and we have told them to stay
away," Chander Prakash, who currently leads the Jat community of the
village, explains to The Indian Express, "because our village has
fallen into its present state because of politicians."

Mirchpur is yet to recover from last year's violence. An elderly
Dalit, Tara Chand, and his physically-challenged daughter were burnt
to death on April 21, 2010, after a crowd of the dominant Jat
community torched a number of houses following a quarrel between some
youths belonging to both sections. A total of 97 persons were later
put on trial; 82 of them were acquitted while the other 15 were held
guilty under various sections and are waiting for their sentences.

Indian National Lok Dal candidate Ajay Chautala had made a programme
to visit Mirchpur for votes, says Chander Prakash, "but we told him
not to bother us". Chautala dropped the programme.

The Jats' first priority is to somehow buy peace with the Balmikis as
they plan an appeal following the conviction of youths of their
community. They have made several overtures, the latest being a
written invitation on the letterhead of a Haryana chief parliamentary
secretary to work out an agreement to ensure "amity" in the village.
The proposal has been jointly made by Chander Prakash, Devi Singh and
Balbir Singh, a retired CRPF DSP.

"There is no way we can accept the peace offer," says Rajmal, a Dalit
chowkidar. "What can we decide when a large number of people, who had
fled after the attack, have not returned to the village?" says Sanjay
Kumar, standing next to him.

The houses freshly built for Dalits stand out from the rest. Each is
painted yellow and numbered distinctly, and has the name of the owner
in bold letters. Several of them, however, are unoccupied. "Kamla w/o
Tara Chand," an empty house proclaims. The gates and doors are wide
open; wild shrubs on the compound stand testimony that the surviving
members of Tara Chand's family have never thought about coming back
since that night.

There is a permanent police post close to the Balmiki Mohalla and its
men can be seen all around. However, the Dalits have not yet overcome
their fear. "My nephew Ajmer Singh was beaten up after the court
verdict," Chander Singh says.

Praveen Kumar, husband of Mahendro, a Dalit member of the panchayat,
says the polling booth for Balmikis is very far from where they live
and they are scared of going there. "We don't know what might happen
to us on the way," he says.

Either section has a partisan view, and neither wants anything to do
with the election, but there is one striking exception. Suresh Balmiki
blames "anti-social elements on both sides" for the trouble. Over the
last few years, he has been swearing by peace and become a regular
feature among the band of followers who surround Haryana PWD Minister
Randeep Singh Surjewala. He accompanies Surjewala when he campaigns
for Congress nominee Jai Prakash. As such, Suresh Balmiki stands out
as an island within the island.


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