Ara, Nov. 10: The focus on atrocities on Dalits has swivelled from Jhajjar in Haryana — where some youths were lynched for skinning a cow — to Ara in Bihar, where an upper-caste landlord raped a Dalit’s wife on Friday after accusing him of not repaying a loan of Rs 100.
“This is one of the most horrendous rape incidents by an upper caste who wanted to show his power on the Dalit woman on the plea that her husband did not pay the Rs 100 he had taken as loan. But we found out later that the amount had been repaid,” district magistrate Sanjay Kumar told The Telegraph today.
Bhojpur police have lodged a case under the Prevention of Atrocities Against Dalits Act and a rape case against the landlord, who is absconding. The woman has been sent for medical tests.
Daulat Paswan, a labourer in Barishwan village, about 30 km from here, asked landlord Gopal Tiwari for Rs 100 to celebrate Dussehra.
Gopal, who was not carrying money, asked his friend Lalan Tiwari to lend Paswan Rs 100 and asked him to repay the loan in six days.
On Friday morning, Gopal reached the Dalit colony on the outskirts of the village in search of Paswan and demanded the money back. Paswan told him that he had returned the money. “When I said I had repaid the money to Lalan Tiwari, he did not believe me. He grabbed me by my shirt and dragged me to his house,” Paswan said.
He was taken to an outhouse in Gopal’s farm and tied to a pillar. Paswan recounted that Gopal began to shower blows on him, saying: “Ungrateful dog, who told you to return the money to Lalan'”
Panupati Devi, Paswan’s wife, learnt from neighbours that her husband had been dragged to Gopal’s house. She rushed there to beg for mercy.
When she reached the outhouse and pleaded with the landlord to release Paswan, an enraged Gopal allegedly grabbed her and forced her into his rest room. “The accused then allegedly tied the Dalit woman’s hands before raping her violently,” said Biswanath Tiwari, investigating officer of the case.
Once the landlord left, Panupati escaped. She ran back to her mother-in-law and told her what had happened. The two later went to the police station and lodged a complaint.
Gopal went underground on hearing that a case had been filed.
“The landlord Gopal Tiwari could exploit the woman as there were no young men in the village. They had all gone to another village to attend a festival,” said Jasodha Paswan, a Dalit elder.
The atrocity has triggered a wave of protests by human rights activists and politicians belonging to the social justice camp.
It has also set the caste cauldron of Bhojpur, where the ultra-Left CPI-ML (Liberation) is engaged in a bloody feud with the Ranbir Sena, the private army of upper caste landlords, boiling.
Radical Left leaders said the incident typified the attitude of the upper castes towards the Dalits. “We don’t have much of an organisational strength in the Shahpur block in which the village is located. It is dominated by upper castes. Hence, they could muster the courage to do this,” said Ganesh Paswan, a district-level CPI-ML leader.