A Kshatriya landlord in Uttar Pradesh’s Muzaffarnagar district has got an attendant to announce to the beat of a drum in his village that no Dalit must enter his agricultural fields or venture near his tubewells, threatening violators with a fine of Rs 5,000 and 50 shoe beatings.
Police in Paawati Khurd have arrested Kunwar Pal, the announcer, and are looking for Rajveer Singh, the landlord and former panchayat chief, after a video of the incident surfaced on social media. The duo have been booked under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and for breach of peace.
Uttar Pradesh’s chief minister, Yogi Adityanath, is a Kshatriya and his tenure has witnessed allegations that his castemen have been given undue favours to the detriment of other castes. Caste chasms, however, have traditionally run deep across India.
“We have registered a case against Kunwar Pal and Rajveer Singh and arrested the former for making the announcement on Monday night. Rajveer is absconding and will be arrested soon,” said Abhishek Yadav, senior superintendent of police of Muzaffarnagar, 650km northwest of state capital Lucknow.
In the video Kunwar is heard saying in Hindi as he walks down a street beating a drum: “Scheduled Caste members are prohibited from entering the agricultural fields and tubewell areas of Rajveer Singh. Those who violate the decree will be made to pay Rs 5,000 as fine and beaten 50 times with a shoe.”
Gyaneshwar Baudh, the officer in charge of Charthawal police station, said Rajveer was an affluent Kshatriya.
“His son Vicky Tyagi was a gangster. Vicky was killed in a gun battle on the premises of a court in 2016. An undertrial in several cases of murder and kidnapping for ransom, Vicky was shot dead by a rival gang. There are cases of rioting and clashing against Rajveer as well,” Baudh said.
Kunwar, also a Kshatriya, said after he was taken into police custody: “I work for Rajveer and also in his fields. He had given me the drum and told me to announce his diktat in the village so that Dalits stay away from his properties.”
A villager not willing to be named was quoted by local reporters as saying: “Paawati Khurd has always been like this. There was a shortage of labourers here, so some of us have started hiring workers irrespective of caste. However, there is a clear divide between the upper castes and
the Dalits. The downtrodden can’t sit on a chair in front of upper caste villagers; they sit on the ground. However, never had a decree been issued that they can’t enter someone’s property.”
There are about 200 families in Paawati Khurd, of which around 100 are upper-caste Hindus and 40 Muslims. There are 30 OBC families and the rest are Scheduled Castes.