Ratan Nagar village in district Churu in Rajasthan witnessed yet another case of mob lynching of a young Dalit man, on the 19th of October. 20-year old Asaram Meghawal was asked to come over to meet Dinesh Singh, Shravan Singh and Anil, who are the residents of the same village, but belong to the landed dominant Rajput caste. As soon as Asaram reached their house, he was allegedly beaten up by Dinesh and others with sticks, sharp weapons and cycle chains. They also gagged his mouth with clothes so that he would not shout for help.
Asaram was left unconscious in a lane, from where his relatives discovered him. Though he was still alive when he was taken to the local hospital in Churu, the doctors declared him dead on arrival. According to eyewitnesses, Asaram’s body was full of injury marks from head to toe. His face, chest and back was disfigured from the violence that he was subjected to.
In the beginning, Asaram’s family and relatives were absolutely clueless on why their son was targeted. They were later told that the Rajputs suspected that he had an affair with a girl from their community. Geejraj Verma, a dalit activist from Churu told TWJ, that Asaram was killed on a suspicion that he might be having an affair with a Rajput girl. “Even if he had an affair, can somebody be lynched so brutally for this? One could not even look at his body because of the injury marks. He had torture marks all over his body, even his nails were missing from his fingers. How can somebody be killed with such violence and vengeance on mere suspicion? They could have gone to the police,” says Geejraj. According to Geejraj, this is nothing but a caste atrocity. “The accused are all from landed dominant castes. They are extremely powerful and have the backing of BJP Member of Parliament Rajvardhan Singh Rathore. It is with this impunity of power that they could so brutally kill a helpless young man from a poor dalit family.”
Geejraj’s apprehensions came true when the Police simply refused to file an FIR, even after Asaram’s death. His family along with local dalit organizations then started a sit-in protest in front of the collector’s office in Churu and refused to send Asaram’s body for post-mortem. After twenty four hours of protest, the SSP Anil singh Chauhan and Assistant District Magistrate Ramratan Sankria, met the family and other protesting activists and assured them that they would take action against the perpetrators. An FIR was eventually lodged, and the next day, two people including Dinesh Singh were arrested by the police. It was only after the arrests that Asaram’s family withdrew their protest and his body was finally sent for post-mortem. However, the police has not booked the culprits under SC/ST Prevention of Atrocity Act, but only on charges of murder. They have not shown this as a caste atrocity but as a criminal act of personal enmity.
Geejraj Verma and other activists are wary of justice being delivered to Asaram. They feel that the killers will ultimately be let off because of their political connection. According to Verma, the arrests were made because the administration did not want the situation to escalate when the state was preparing to go for Assembly Elections in a month’s time. But they fear that in the long run, there is a high probability that the accused would be safeguarded and the case weakened by the police.
Rajasthan has witnessed a series of mob lynching of Muslims and Dalits in the last four years. In all the cases, the killers were not arrested or released soon on bail because the police diluted the case from the beginning. The dismal track record of the Rajasthan Police have also made the local activists more circumspect of justice being delivered to Asaram. ‘We will continue to fight. We have formed a Struggle Committee for Justice for Asaram consisting of activists, lawyers and other local prominent personalities. Under the banner of this Committee, the legal and political fight for justice for Asaram Meghawal will go on’, Geejraj told the TWJ.