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SOME LIVES ARE CHEAPER THAN OTHERS
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The delegation visited Badshahpur in Gurgaon district where two of the victims, Dayachand and Virendra had lived. According to the large number of people who we met at the houses of the victims, the families had the support of the entire village regardless of caste. We also met people of different castes who were angry at the incident. They all had the highest praise for the victims for being extremely hardworking, helpful.

There is a large Jatav community in the village. Some of them, like the two victims, earn their living by skinning dead animals. The contract for such work is given on tender by the block development officer. In this case, it was Virendra’s brother, Devendra, who had got the year-long contract for Rs 35,000 in April this year for 40 villages. The delegation saw the receipt number 035, issued by the BDO. The family was very particular to show the delegation the papers to establish that the entire profession was legal and there was no question of ever skinning a cow in the area outside the jurisdiction of the licence, least of all near a police chowki like Duleena.

Devendra also has a licence for skinning dead animals from the gaushala. He... had accepted the work on low payment as a sort of donation to the gaushala. The dead animals are picked up by his team of workers, brought to the land allotted for skinning by the village panchayat, the carcasses are buried by the workers after skinning, the skins are treated with a salt-based mixture and then sold. It is hard, unpleasant work, and provides crucial service to the community.

Dayachand was working with Devendra for a meagre amount. We met his old parents, his wife, Saroj, and his four children. It was very moving and sad to see the older daughters, Minu and Pinky aged eight and nine, helping their mother and grandmother, carrying their young brother and sister, even while wiping their own eyes which would constantly fill up with tears. The victim’s brother, Dulchand, and his father, Budhram, spoke of the day when at 3.30 in the morning, the police came knocking at their door to inform them of an “accident” involving their son. They, as well as Devendra’s family, were informed that the young men had been admitted to the Jhajjar civil hospital. No means of transport were provided to take the families to the hospital. Once they managed to reach there, they shuttled between the chowki, the thana and the hospital, as there was no official to meet them and inform them of what had happened. Ultimately, they were directed to the morgue. Stunned, grieved, shocked, they saw the brutalized, wounded bodies of their loved ones. Describing the terrible injuries his brother suffered, Dulchand broke down again and again. The police refused to arrange for a vehicle, leave alone an ambulance, to take the dead bodies back to their village. “They treated us as though we were the families of the criminals not the victims,” said Jogendra who was present with the other family members. The police did not give them any papers, nor copies of the FIR filed.

The savagery, the cruelty of the caste system, the inhumanity, the arrogance of the “pure upper castes” against the “polluted Dalits” were brought out in every word spoken by this young man, desperately trying to control his grief. “They gave us his body naked. We are poor Dalits that is why they did not think it necessary to cover my brother even with an old sheet.”

Young men in the crowd sitting next to us speak out. “These Hindus make us do their dirty work and then deprive us of even a minimum of dignity.” Another speaks, “If they love their animals so much, let them pick up the carcasses and bury them with full rites.” Yet another voice: “We know this is the VHP and the Bajrang Dal. Why don’t they arrest those who brought out the procession yesterday'” Talk moves to organizing demonstrations, there is quick agreement. Among those present is Ramashree, zilla chairperson. She is distantly related to the victims. She speaks of other cases of atrocities against Dalits where the guilty escaped any punishment.

She urges the women present to join the protests being planned.

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