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.