Rajasthan has become a living hell for Dalits: Renu Meghwanshi, state secretary, Mahila Congress

Published on: December 6, 2018
Renu Meghwanshi is no stranger to fighting against Dalit atrocities. She might be contesting from the Congress now, but prior to this, she was instrumental in taking cases of Dalit atrocities to an international level. In 2015, she was at the forefront in one such case from Dangawas village in Nagar District where three Dalits were crushed under tractors by members of the Jat community. As the head of the state unit of the women’s wing of the Congress, Meghwanshi is now trying to bring the voices of the Dalit community especially women to the mainstream. Aas Mohammed Kaif of TwoCircles.net spoke with Renu Meghwanshi. The following are the excerpts:

Could you tell us a little more about the Dangawas atrocity incident and the struggles you had to go through?
Let me start by saying that it was one of the most shameful cases of atrocity against Dalits witnessed in Independent India. On May 14, 2015, about 350 people from the Jat community came to the village in over 30 cars and bikes. A Dalit family was working on its land which the Jats wanted to capture. The Jats attacked the Dalits in ways one can’t imagine: an elderly man’s eyes were gouged out with a burning piece of wood, women were hit in their private parts and three people were crushed under a tractor while dozens were left severely injured. And despite the police having information about the same, they chose to do nothing. But it was due to our struggles and fight against the Vasundhara Raje government which wanted to shield the perpetrators that the matter reached the United Nations. Finally, a CBI inquiry was initiated in the case. However, the truth is that much before CBI came into the picture the local police had gone out of its way to remove evidence in the matter.

A lot of people including the village Sarpanch tried to push the narrative that the violence was the result of a land dispute. What is your opinion?
The attack was planned well in advance. During the investigation, we came to know that the family members of the attackers and various other members of the community knew of the impending attacks. Similarly, the police also had information about it but chose to do nothing. The Jat community had celebrations after the attacks and said that this would be the fate of any and everyone who tried to speak against them. They compared these attacks with the Muzaffarnagar riots in UP to make their point. Not only that, videos of the atrocities were circulated by the Jat community and people congratulated each other. This shows that the incident was carefully planned as a ‘lesson’ to the Dalits.

So what about justice to the victims?
Talking about justice seems inappropriate when the attacks are yet to stop. This area is known as Jat land as they are about 60% of the population. But despite CBI action in the Dangawas case, even today the condition is so bad that a Dalit groom cannot sit on a horse for his wedding. Even the Dalit legislatures sit on the ground when talking to Jats. People who killed Delta Meghwal remain free and are living without any problem.

If we compare the murder of Delta Meghwal and the murder of three Dalits in Dangawas, what are the common traits you see? What has been the role of the government?
To understand the common traits, we need to see how Dalits are perceived by dominant castes. In the case of Dangawas, the attack was meant to show that Dalits can only be land labourers, not owners. This attack was meant to crush the Dalit aspirations and their self-confidence. Similarly, Delta was a talented student who spoke in English and was progressive in her ideas. She wanted to grow in her career and her dreams were big. This clearly made some upper castes uncomfortable and the result was that she was killed too. Both attacks are a way to tell Dalits that they cannot aspire for a better and more honourable life. The other thing that was common in both these cases was that the Rajasthan government tried to shield both sets of accused.

The current state government has 32 Dalit MLAs including 16 from the Meghwal community. How come we still see attacks on Dalit communities?
The state has become hell for Dalits despite so many Dalit MLAs. The MLA from Dangawas is also from the Meghwal community but did not even bother to pick our call after the attacks. When he goes to meet Jats he removes his shoes and sits on the floor. Such MLAs are eternally grateful to the dominant castes for helping them win. In such a scenario even 64 MLAs are useless. Their lips are sealed.

Earlier this year the country saw massive Dalit protests across the country. What was your role in the same and why do you think people were so angry?
Dalits and their mentality are changing now and they are ready to protest. My husband is a Professor, his brother is an IAS officer and I am also doing my PhD. We know what our community wants and that we will not settle for second-class treatment. Dalits and their anger against feudalism and casteism are strong and on April 2 we came out on the streets to protest against the same. We will no longer be slaves and submit to other’s orders.