December 16, 2022: Two Dalits are killed outside an army camp in Rajouri, Jammu. The deputy commissioner announces Rs 1 lakh for each of the bereaved families and government jobs for the relatives, the brother of one of the deceased said. The next day, lieutenant governor Manoj Sinha announces an additional Rs 5 lakh each, taking the total amount for each family to Rs 6 lakh.
January 1, 2023: Six people are killed in a village 7km from the December 16 attack site in Rajouri. Sinha announces Rs 10 lakh for the families of each of the victims, and government jobs for their relatives.
Srinagar: Dalits in Jammu have asked lieutenant governor Manoj Sinha’s administration to treat their slain community members on a par with upper-caste Hindus.
“The death cannot be compensated, LG. Regrets over (all deaths) and our tributes to the dead. You don’t treat people as equals in their lives but at least treat them as equals in death. Rs 10 lakh and jobs for those killed by terrorists at Dhangri (in Rajouri) but only Rs 5 lakh for SCs (Scheduled Castes) killed in Rajouri,” R.K. Kalsotra, state president of the All India Confederation of SC, ST and OBC Organisations, tweeted in Hindi on Wednesday. Relatives of the victims told this newspaper later in the day about the initial and separate Rs 1 lakh each announced by the deputy commissioner.
Surinder Kumar and Kamal Kishore, both Dalits, were killed outside an army camp at Phaliana village in Rajouri on December 16. The army blamed militants for the deaths but villagers, including the families of the victims, have accused the army of killing them. The government has ordered an investigation.
Over a fortnight later, militants killed six civilians, including two children, and injured several at Dhangri village. The six dead in the New Year’s Day attack were Vihan Sharma, Samiksha Sharma, Satish Kumar, Deepak Kumar, Pritam Lal and Shishu Pal.
Dheeraj Kumar, sarpanch of Dhangri village, said most of the six victims were related to one another and all were Brahmins.
Soon after the deaths, LG Sinha visited the village and announced Rs 10 lakh as ex gratia and jobs to the relatives of those killed.
After the December 16 killings, the government had initially announced an ex gratia of Rs 1 lakh to the next of kin. Sinha, who did not visit the families, later announced the additional Rs 5 lakh each.
“The two villages are just 7km apart. They are resorting to casteism in the treatment of the victims. In our case, we were asked to remove the bodies for cremation after the announcement of merely Rs 1 lakh for each family. LG Sahab announced Rs 5 lakh later,” Koshal Vishwa, brother of Surinder, told The Telegraph.
In both cases, the families had refused to bury the bodies until the government agreed to their demands. The Dalit families had pressed for an investigation into the killings while the villagers in Dhangri wanted additional security for the area.
Vishwa said the announcement of jobs in their case was made by the deputy commissioner, not the LG. “We got the money but not the jobs. We are not sure we will get the jobs. LG Sahab himself made the written announcement for money and jobs in the Dhangri incident,” he said.
Vishwa said the family stood by the belief that the two might have been killed by the army. “Although the government ordered an investigation, nothing has been made public. They are not sharing any information with us, not even CCTV footage, which makes the deaths all the more suspicious,” he said.
Kalsotra, the confederation leader, said his organisation had raised the demand of treating the Dalit martyrs on a par with “martyrs of the army” last month and accordingly, sought Rs 1 crore as compensation for each family.“Both were from extremely poor families. We are saddened by all deaths, but these families have also lost their loved ones,” he said.
Rajouri deputy commissioner Vikas Kundal did not respond to calls and text messages from this newspaper.