The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Fine for caste torture

Bhopal, July 9: The Digvijay Singh government has imposed a fine of over Rs 25 lakh on higher castes in five villages of Rajgarh, the chief minister’s home district, for atrocities against Dalits and tribals.

Rajgarh district collector Sanjay Mandloi said the villagers were fined for destroying ready crops, belonging to Dalits and tribals, in the first week of August 2002.

The Rs 25,33,000 fine on non-Dalit and non-tribal residents of Lalhedi, Purankhedi, Lasudli Maharaj, Selapani and Khedi villages will go towards compensating the victims. The penalty ranges from Rs 7,445 to Rs 2,000 a house depending on the gravity of the crime, as established by a magisterial inquiry.

Mandloi said the villagers have been booked under the state’s SC-ST act and the citizens’ protection act.

In Lalhedi, 128 families have been asked to pay Rs 3,927 each. The penalty is highest in Purankhedi, where each family will pay Rs 7,445. In Lasudli Maharaj, 140 families have to cough up Rs 3,764 each. Every one of 100 families in Selpani has been told to pay Rs 2,000. In Khedi village of Narsinghgarh tehsil, the fine on 80 families has been fixed at Rs 4,227 each.

If the villagers fail to pay up, the government plans to recover the money by confiscating property. All those penalised were given a month to defend themselves but failed to convince the authorities, Mandloi said.

The Digvijay regime had distributed state-owned grazing land among the weaker sections. A temporary stay was misconstrued by the higher castes as the court striking down the order and, within days, the crops were burned down. Two persons died and several were injured in mob clashes involving Dalits, tribals, other castes and police.

Rajgarh, which was Digvijay’s parliamentary seat, is now represented in the Lok Sabha by his brother Laxman Singh.

The Brahims and Thakurs in the five Rajgarh villages are complaining. According to Pandit Hiranand of Byawra tehsil, they have been “unnecessarily dragged” into the controversy. “The alleged violence that took place was between Dalits and OBCs. The Brahmins and Thakurs had no role. Why should they be punished'” he asked.

In Madhya Pradesh, atrocities against Dalits and tribals are on the rise in spite of the government’s stated policy of affirmative action.

State-owned grazing land has been reduced from 5 to 3 per cent to grant land to landless Dalits and tribals. The Digvijay regime has implemented the Dalit agenda, which envisages 30 per cent of state purchase from Dalit entrepreneurs.

But at the social level, these measures have enhanced inter-caste violence. In an election year, the issue has taken a political colour with the OBCs siding with the Uma Bharti-led BJP.

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