Jabalpur: Thrown out of his home, allegedly by the upper caste village Thakurs, with a warning never to return, Chakori Chaudhary and members of 15 other Dalit families from Madhya Pradesh's Jabalpur district had to flee, seeking police protection. Their crime? One of them dared to smoke during a funeral procession without permission.
"I have been forced out of the village. I want justice. I want to go back,” an anguished Chaudhary said.
The Dalits are angered by the high-handedness of the Thakurs.
Another villager, Halki Bai, says, “The Thakurs do not behave properly with us. It is not just this incident; they do not allow us fetch water and we are forced to carry our shoes on our heads while passing in front of their houses.”
The incident is already snowballing into a major political crisis for the ruling BJP government.
Madhya Pradesh goes to polls towards the end of the year. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan – himself a backward-class leader – has been wooing the poor and backward in the state. But given the clout of the upper-caste Thakurs, he doesn’t want to antagonise them, either
For the police, though, nothing of any import has taken place.
"There are some complaints and we have taken action but there is nothing like Thakurs forcing the Dalits out of the village,” said SP (Jabalpur) Markand Devaskar.
Dalits in the state’s bipolar polity have traditionally voted for the Congress. BSP after its resounding victory in UP is already working overtime to capture Dalit votes here and incidents like these could well provide Mayawati the issues she has been seeking to mobilise Dalits in Madhya Pradesh.