Chandigarh: A Dalit man in Mandi district of Himachal Pradesh was allegedly beaten up and casteist slurs were hurled at him for merely touching the palanquin of a deity belonging to the upper caste.
The local police have registered a case under the SC/ST Atrocities Act, but no arrests have been made as yet. The incident took place on September 3.Jalpu Ram, a native of Nandi village in Gohar Sub-division of the district, was returning from his daughter’s home when he came across the palanquin of Gugga Devta kept at the courtyard of one Tilak Raj, an upper caste man from Dasot village. He bowed down in reverence to get the blessings of the deity.Upon touching the palanquin, he was allegedly thrashed by Tilak Raj and other men belonging from the upper caste for the ‘blasphemy’.
A goat was demanded as fine from him for ‘purifying’ the deity.
“I was returning from my daughter’s place and was headed towards my sister’s house when I saw Gugga Devta resting at a house. I went near it and tried to take the blessings. However, I was beaten up and the upper caste people hurled casteist slurs at me. I was asked to offer a ‘bakra’ (goat) as a fine. They even threatened to chop me into pieces if I did not pay the fine,” alleged Jalpu Ram.
It is reported that Jalpu Ram was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the incident.
At first, an FIR related to the assault was registered at the Gohar Police station. However, the fact that the man was discriminated against because of his caste was not included in the FIR.
A local NGO then approached the Mandi DSP, following which a separate FIR under the SC/ST Atrocities Act was registered.
“Jalpu Ram had approached us alleging untouchability. A case has been registered under Sections 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) and 343 (wrongful confinement) of the Indian Penal Code and relevant sections of the SC/ST Atrocities Act. The matter is being investigated,” said Mandi DSP Hitesh Lakhanpal.
It is to be noted that in the rural areas of Himachal Pradesh, while it is not publically acknowledged, untouchability is still practised when it comes to the deities. The lower caste people are not allowed to touch or even go near the deities revered by the upper castes.
A goat, as is the case with Jalpu Ram, is normally imposed as fine so that the deity is ‘purified’.
The lower castes have their own deities that are called Chota Devtas compared to the Bada Devtas of the upper castes.