Mathura: 15 Convicted 23 Years After Setting Dalit Homes on Fire

Nine of the accused died during the trial.
Mathura: 15 Convicted 23 Years After Setting Dalit Homes on Fire

Lucknow-In a case of delayed justice, 15 members belonging to an ‘upper caste’ were convicted of setting a blaze a Dalit’s house in a village in Mathura on January 23, 2001. A six-month-old child was killed in the incident and several had suffered injuries.

Speaking to The Mooknayak, Special Public Prosecutor Suresh Prasad Sharma said, “A few ‘upper caste’ men were constructing a house on a piece of land owned by village panchayat in Mathura’s Datia. It was opposed by the Dalit residents of the area. The matter snowballed into a caste conflict as others too joined in the conflict.”

Armed with guns, the ‘upper caste’ men fired at those who were opposing the construction. Tension gripped the village – with its Dalit inhabitants began fleeing. The goons set the Dalit houses there on fire. A six-month-old Dalit girl was charred to death in the incident.

An FIR was registered against 16 people. The name of eight more accused were added after the investigation. There were a total 23 accused in the crime.

Additional District and Sessions Judge (SC/ST Act) Manoj Kumar Mishra, who pronounced a verdict on Wednesday, convicted 15 of the accused under IPC sections 302 (murder), and 307 (attempt to murder), 436 (mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy the house) , 148 (rioting with deadly weapon) and 3(2) and sentenced them to life imprisonment besides slapping a fine of Rs 73,000 on each of the convicts.

The proceeds of the fine is to be distributed between Chandan Singh, the father of the deceased girl – Gudiya – and the injured persons. The trial took so long to conclude that nine of the accused died during the hearing.

Torching of Dalits houses at slightest provocation has become common in villages and towns, with the accused largely going unpunished.

Here are few examples of the recent past:

  • On August 31, 2005, 50 houses belonging to the Dalit community were set ablaze at Gohana in Haryana’s Sonipat district allegedly by members of the Jat community after a Valmiki youth was accused of murdering a boy from the dominant caste. In 2012, the CBI special court acquitted 11 accused in the case as the agency could not produce enough evidence.

  • On April 21, 2010, even the embers of Gohana incident had not completely doused down, 18 Dalit homes were torched and two persons from the community (17-year-old Suman and her 60-year-old father Tara Chand) were burnt alive in Mirchpur village of Hisar district in Haryana.

  • Suman was physically handicapped. The dispute escalated after the pet dog of a Valmiki family barked at a Jat. The High Court convicted 32 accused in the case.  

  • In October 2015, two children belonging to a Dalit family aged 3 years and 11 months were burnt alive and their parents suffered injuries in Faridabad district of Haryana allegedly when members of the Rajput community torched their home following a dispute with Jitendra, the father of two innocent children. The case is under trial.

  • Such cases are not confined to Haryana or Uttar Pradesh alone, but have also been reported from South Indian states. 

  • In 2012, a mob comprising of Vanniyar caste set 268 Dalit houses on fire in Dharampuri district of Tamil Nadu after a girl belonging to the community eloped with a Dalit boy. In 2013, the high court gave bail to the 28 accused in the case, and no one got convicted.

  • On March 6, 2023, houses belonging to Dalits in Nandihalli village of Hubbaballi district of Karnataka were burnt after some members of the Dalit community began dancing in a religious procession that was passing through the area. None suffered injuries in the incident.

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