Ground report: A few streets ahead of Sasni Gate police station in Aligarh, the lane that leads to Sarai Kale Khan colony is blocked with sewerage water.
Locals say that routine cleansing of the water tank is going on, and the entire area would remain submerged for at least three to four hours.
In Sarai Kale Khan, I have come to meet Dinesh Jatav, a resident who was beaten up for singing bhajans by Muslim neighbours four weeks earlier. I had read about the incident in the newspapers, and I was both curious about what must have provoked the attack and concerned about the victim.
There was no way I could wade through the dirty water on foot. Luckily for me, a local youth who was also from the Jatav community and knew about the case, agreed to drop and pick me up from Dinesh’s house on his scooter in exchange for some money.
Dinesh’s colony, a picture of poverty
Dinesh lives in a one-room set in a two-storey house. The haphazardly constructed building houses families of his elder son and younger brothers.
Dinesh has three sons and one daughter, of whom two sons are unmarried. He makes a living by trading in sandbags. “He buys sandbags from the wholesale market at Rs 2 a piece and sells them to retailers for Rs 3 a piece,” says his wife Ummati Devi.
On a good day, Dinesh is able to sell around 150 bags. The maximum he is able to bring home a month is Rs 4,000-4,500.
Dinesh is among the poorest in the colony, though others are far from affluence.
Pigs are rolling in the sewage water; children and elders are walking through it. Those who must do their chores, cannot afford to wait for the flood to drain out.
In this picture of poverty and government apathy, Dinesh was beaten up for chanting a harmless religious phrase, ‘Sita Ram Sita Ram’.
A crime out of caste and communal hate
Dinesh bears a constant smile on his face, even when he is narrating his ordeal, as if in a trance. After every few lines he speaks, the words ‘Sita Ram Sita Ram’ flow from his mouth as if he has no control over them. Dinesh says he has deep faith in God, worships Lord Balaji and, at times, weeps for hours out of devotion.
He says that on the morning of 20 April, he was sitting, as usual, on a platform outside Bhoori’s house. Bhoori lives right opposite to the entrance of Dinesh’s lane. Her family is Muslim.
It was around 4.30am, when most residents were still inside their homes. Only some Muslim men, who had gone to a mosque for the morning namaz, were out, says Dinesh.
“Three youths came to me, of whom I identify only one – Abid. They gathered around me and told me, ‘Chamare, tu bahut banta hai, tu bada bhajan karta hai, aa tujhe aaj bataun [You, from Chamar caste, you like to show yourself as big, you like to chant bhajans, let me teach you a lesson],” recalls Dinesh.
The provocation for this spat was that Dinesh had objected to Abid’s act of spitting in his direction, he says.
The men beat up Dinesh. Ummati says someone from the colony sent her a word. Her elder son Vishal reached the spot immediately. He found Dinesh bleeding from his head, face and knee.
They took him to a nearby government dispensary. For two weeks, Dinesh went for a daily dressing for his wounds after the attack, says Ummati. “It cost us Rs 100 every day. Almost half of the month’s earnings went down in drain.”
Abid, who is from Qureshi caste, lives right next to Bhoori’s house. When this correspondent visited the place, his house was locked. Neighbours said Abid was in jail, but others were not absconding. “They are usually at home. They must be out for some work,” said Bhoori.
When asked about the incident, Bhoori said she had not seen anything. With a wry smile, she pointed at Ummati and said, “They have already sent a man to jail. The matter is solved. There is nothing left.”
Ummati replied she had not sent anybody to jail. It was the police, she said meekly.
Bhoori’s husband Babbu declined to speak, saying Bhoori’s version is enough.
Another resident, Rajbir, said he had not seen anything and thus could not comment.
The first information report (FIR) in the matter was filed at Sasni Gate police station the same day, that is on 20 April, on the complaint of Dinesh (number 175/2022).
The statement recorded in the FIR, however, skips the part about Abid’s alleged hate comments on Dinesh’s religious chants. The statement simply says that around 4.30am when Dinesh was doing “nitya kriya” (a daily rite), Abid arrived with two or three men, hurled casteist slurs and threatened him with death.
The police booked Abid and an unidentified person under IPC sections 307 (attempt to murder), 504 (breach of peace) and 506 (criminal intimidation), along with sections of Scheduled Castes and Schedules Tribes (Prevention of Atrocity) Act, 1989.
He was arrested the same day and continues to be in jail.
No compensation to family yet but Aligarh police say matter is old and solved
In a rather surprising reaction, Aligarh police told this correspondent that writing about the case after four weeks is akin to spreading rumours as the case is too old.
When this correspondent posted about the case on Twitter on 17 May, the official Twitter account of Aligarh police replied (as translated), “The case is old. Don’t spread rumours by showing it to be a present case. Action has already been taken.”
However, Dinesh’s family told this correspondent that they had not got any compensation from the administration under the SC atrocity act so far.
When asked about the compensation on Twitter, Aligarh police gave no reply.
‘Minorities’ in fear?
The case is a routine reminder that the global propaganda of the estimated 20 crore-strong Muslim community in India (conservative estimate) facing a genocide and subjected to one-sided attacks by “majority” Hindus is a lie, with no bearing on the ground reality.
In Sarai Kale Khan, Hindus are smaller than Muslims in both size and stature. The colony has about 20 houses belonging to Hindus – all from the scheduled Jatav caste – while more than 100 houses belong to Muslims, mostly from “upper” Sheikh and Qureshi castes.
In this colony, Muslims have bigger houses than Hindus. Some Muslims drive autorickshaws, which no Jatav here can afford, others deal in sandbags, which seems to be a major occupation in this area.
‘Unlike me, they can afford to buy and stock a thousand pieces at a time. Their sales are much higher. They are richer. We are poor. They bully us,” says Dinesh.
This report was first published on Swarajyamag.com here.
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