2 weeks on, no headway in probe of Dalit’s murder
A blurry photograph of Gangaram is placed on a chair outside his mud house in Ummaidnagar village in Rajasthan’s Bhilwara district. Gangaram Balai (60), a Dalit, was allegedly burnt alive on March 1, 2019, in the Mogarwasa mining area of Kasyan village, almost 100 km away from his native village. He was the gardener in charge of growing vegetables in the mining area.
His elder brother Narayan Balai (65) filed an FIR in Bijolia police station the day the incident took place in front of the mining company’s office. In the FIR, Narayan asserted that his brother Gangaram was tied to a tree and burnt alive.
The police said the labourers working in the mine are being detained and questioned. So far, more than 15 suspects have been detained, said the police. However, they haven’t arrested anybody yet.
Yogesh Yadav, the Superintendent of police of Bhilwara district, said that according to the post-mortem report, Gangaram died of burns. Police said that when they reached the spot, the body was still burning. Between 5 am and 6 am, people living nearby saw the burning body and called the police. Police said Gangaram’s clothes and mobile phone were found on 10-15 ft away from the body.
Police found a suicide note in Gangaram’s clothing, the letter mentioning trouble related to his daughter’s marriage. However, Narayan asserts that Gangaram was not married and was unlettered; he could barely sign his name and not write. Narayan suspects that the letter was planted in his pocket. The Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) team also gathered evidence from the spot, whose report will be out in a few days.
Bijolia police station in-charge Baldev Ram said all the angles are being investigated. He said suicide is one of the possibilities they are looking at but the case has been registered under Section 302 of IPC, which deals with punishment for murder.
Meanwhile, social activists have moved into action due to the news of the alleged killing with several of them even visiting Gangaram’s house. Tara Chand Verma, member of the Rajasthan Human Rights Law Network, said, “I have visited the village of Gangaram and the site of the incident. It is clear that it is a case of murder but the police seem clueless.” She added that the administration should immediately give financial assistance to the family of Gangaram and the criminals be arrested quickly.
Ramesh Chand Bansal, a social worker the Adhikar Sandarbh Kendra, is shocked at the administrative apathy and said that this kind of silence is beyond comprehension after a person has been burned alive.
Gangaram’s entire family lives in Ummaidnagar of Itamaria Gram Panchayat in Bhilwara district. His brother Narayan and sister-in-law Shayari Devi (62) have four children. Narayan recalls that he had spoken to his brother over the phone two days before the incident took place. He also mentioned that Gangaram would visit them in the village at least once in two to three months.
Gangaram left the village nearly 30 years ago and started living on the premises of the famous Tilaswa Mahadev Temple in the area about 100 kilometres away. There, he prepared a garden. His nephew Madan (28), said that about four years ago, Gangaram went to Kasyan village 7 km from Tilaswa, where he started practising horticulture in a stone mining area. After the death of Gangaram, the mining company has compensated the family by giving Rs 1 lakh. The owner of this mining company is a Congress leader Kailash Chand Meena.
Ramchandra, Gangaram’s childhood friend and a priest for the Balai community, said Gangaram had no enemies and that the entire village knew him as a religious man.
History of discrimination
Bhilwara district of Rajasthan is infamous for Dalit repression. Incidents of people belonging to the Dalit community being beaten up is a common occurrence. There have been instances where Dalit grooms were not allowed to sit on a mare during their wedding procession. Cases of witch-hunting where Dalit women are targeted have been reported. According to Tara Ahluwalia, chairperson of the Bal Evam Mahila Chetna Samiti, 80% cases of witch-hunting in Rajasthan are in Bhilwara district.
However, Ramchandra mentioned that as soon as people heard the news of Gangaram’s death, people from all castes gathered in the village pay their condolences.
Gangaram’s family and the village folk believe he has been murdered. People from several villages protested at the Bhilwara district headquarters demanding the arrest of the killers on March 11.