Caste

Uttar Pradesh: Dalit Woman, Unborn Child Killed for ‘Touching’ Bucket in Bulandshahr

Earlier this year, in April and May, inter-caste violence rocked UP’s communally sensitive Saharanpur district, with 26% Dalit and 10% Thakur population

Women members of Dalit Community carry a portrait of BR Ambedkar as they block the traffic during a protest in Ahmedabad on Wednesday against the assault on dalit members by cow protectors in Rajkot district, Gujarat. Credit: PTI

Women members of Dalit Community carry a portrait of B.R. Ambedkar as they block the traffic during a protest in Ahmedabad against the assault on dalit members by cow protectors in Rajkot district, Gujarat. Credit: PTI

New Delhi: On the morning of October 15, Savitri Devi, a Dalit woman collecting garbage from homes in Uttar Pradesh’s Bulandshahr district, accidentally ‘touched’ a bucket belonging to Anju, an upper caste Thakur. The innocuous incident which shouldn’t have merited any attention however triggered an attack on Savitri in the caste-stratified locality. Here’s how her neighbour Kusuma Devi described the incident: “Anju stormed towards her, punched her repeatedly in the stomach and banged her head on a wall. She kept accusing Savitri of ‘defiling’ her bucket by touching it,” reported the Indian Express. Later, she says, Anju’s son Rohit joined his mother in  beating Savitri with sticks.

Savitri and her unborn child died six days later. Her husband, Dilip Kumar, said he had taken his injured wife to the district hospital the same day. But the hospital refused to treat her, taking the plea that there was no external bleeding and she was fine. On October 21, Savitri’s condition worsened and Kumar took her to hospital, where authorities declared her dead, the Indian Express report said.

On October 18, when Kumar went to file a complaint with the Kotwali (rural) police station, Tapeshwar Sagar, the SHO informed him that the police have not registered a case since since no external wounds ( ‘no injury’) were found. Two days later however, a police team visited the village and verified the assault on Savitri. An FIR was subsequently lodged.

The latest attack comes in the backdrop of the larger narrative of caste and communal violence in Saharanpur which has a population of 26% Dalits and 10% Thakurs. At a broader level, caste-related violence shows no signs of abating across the country. These attacks are channelled through outright physical attacks to verbal abuse and all kinds of upper-caste imposed cultural and spatial taboos.

Consider for instance, the string of  incidents in Gujarat, in the first week of October, when three Dalit boys were attacked, allegedly by people from upper castes. Around the same time, a youth was killed in the state’s Anand district. His crime – watching garba at a temple. In the Gandhinagar district, another Dalit youth was attacked for sporting a moustache.

  • Anjan Basu

    We can do no better than remembe what Rabindranath said about perpetuating social backwardness: “Those that you have kept behind, are pulling you back all the time”. The curse of casteism is eating at the roots of India’s civilisational values even in the 21st century. What a shame this is for us all!

    • Ashok Akbar Gonsalves

      “At a broader level, caste-related violence shows no signs of abating across the country. ”

      This is why I thought Ms Sahgal was being a bit disingenuous in her article https://thewire.in/186417/i-cannot-accept-hindutva-i-hindu/ in which she had written “And all truly religious people know that God has no chosen people. We are all equal in the eyes of the creator”.
      I am sure this woman Anju would bristle with righteous indignation if she were to be accused of not being “truly religious”, and yet she obviously did not consider Savitri Devi to be her equal! In fact, its precisely her “true religiosity” that has ingrained within her the belief in the sanctity of the caste system and shapes her conviction of Savitri’s inferiority.
      Which is why the “curse of casteism” as you so pithily described it is alive and well. Indeed, shame on us – as a nation, as a people, as a religion.