Rajat Kalsan: The Human Rights Crusader Striving Against Caste Injustice in Khap Land

In the past decade, numerous Ambedkar statues have been vandalized and desecrated. Shockingly, almost 99% of these incidents have resulted in filed FIRs going untraced. Disturbingly, those who dared to file complaints are now facing government-led harassment.
Rajat Kalsan speaks to Italian media about the caste atrocity on Dalit women in Haryana.
Rajat Kalsan speaks to Italian media about the caste atrocity on Dalit women in Haryana.The Mooknayak

In a society marked by deep-rooted caste disparities and systemic discrimination, the figure of Rajat Kalsan emerges as a beacon of hope and resilience. Rajat Kalsan, a determined human rights lawyer, has embarked on a relentless journey to challenge the very foundations of the caste system in India's Khap-dominated regions. Unlike the typical legal practitioners who tread conventional paths, Kalsan stands out for his unyielding resolve to combat caste-based atrocities and champion justice for marginalized communities.

In an exclusive conversation with "The Mooknayak," Kalsan shared his profound experiences, shedding light on his unwavering pursuit of justice, his struggles against powerful forces, and his unshakable dedication to human rights. As we delve into Kalsan's story, we unearth a narrative of courage, defiance, and a fervent belief in the transformative power of the law.

Mirchpur Case: Success against Heavy Odds

The Mirchpur case remains one of the most chilling instances of Dalit atrocity in Haryana. Mirchpur, a village in the Hisar district of Haryana, witnessed a horrifying act of violence against Dalits on April 21, 2010. The dispute started two days earlier, on April 19, 2010, when a dog belonging to a Valmiki community member barked at some Jat youths. Infuriated, the Jat youths threw bricks at the pet. Arguments ensued, and over the following days, a large mob of Jats armed with lathis gathered near the Balmiki Basti and set houses on fire. In this arson attack, a 70-year-old Dalit named Tara Chand and his 17-year-old polio-affected disabled daughter were burned alive in their house. 51 members of the Valmiki group were wounded in the attack, and 17 houses were set ablaze. The Dalits of the village were forced to migrate and live in tents and camps.

Kalsan decided to litigate on behalf of the victims. His unwavering determination led the Court to order the transfer of the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on January 20, 2011. Kalsan was disappointed when the court convicted 15 individuals and acquitted 82 people; no one was found guilty of murder. Three were convicted of homicide. However, on October 24, 2018, the Delhi High Court convicted 13 accused and overturned the acquittal of 20 individuals. Such a high number of convictions in an atrocity case is unprecedented.

The journey to justice was not easy for Kalsan. Narrating the predicament he faced in the case, Kalsan recounted, "Police arrested several persons after the protests. When I decided to take up the case, no lawyer was willing to represent the Valmikis. The clout of the Jat community in the administration and government was so strong that no one dared to stand up as a lawyer for the community. I went to the victims and assured them of justice, taking up their fight. I noticed that the accused arrested after the protests were not taken into remand and were taken straight to court, which hindered the evidence collection process. I appealed to the court for the accused to be taken into remand."

Battling Intimidation and Unfair Influence

Sharing other harrowing experiences, Rajat said that in 2010, he was threatened in front of the SC Commission team during their visit to the site of the incident in Mirchpur. Another time, when a Magistrate visited the site, members of the Jat community and hostile Valmikis intimidated her. When the magistrate left with her convoy, Kalsan and his friend Deshdeep, a lawyer from Delhi, were chased by Jat community members. They managed to escape, thanks to the intervention of SDM Hansi passing by the area.

Rajat outside the Supreme Court of India.
Rajat outside the Supreme Court of India.The Mooknayak

Rajat recalled that witnesses were terrorized by the accused and the Jat community. All the Jat lawyers were representing the Jat community, and even government lawyers seemed to align with the dominant community's stance. Around 300-400 people from the dominant community attended the court hearing. " While speaking to my witnesses, a person came and authoritatively stated that the accused had reached a compromise with the victims and that I should not interfere. A confrontation followed when I resisted. However, only 11 of my witnesses turned hostile. I felt that a fair trial couldn't be held in this intimidating state atmosphere. This prompted me to transfer the case to Delhi. I approached Colin Gonsalves of the Human Rights Lawyers Network. We pleaded with the Supreme Court under Section 406 CrPC to transfer the case, as witnesses were being threatened and lawyers were being assaulted. The Hisar session judge confirmed in an affidavit that there was an attack on me. The Supreme Court transferred the case to Rohini Court in Delhi" Kalsan told The Mooknayak.

He further added, this move didn't sit well with the Jat Community. The Khap panchayats blocked Haryana's railway tracks to protest the case's transfer to Delhi. They demanded the release of all the accused and sought to charge me under the sedition act, accusing me of conspiring against the state's brotherhood. They employed various tactics, and Kalsan revealed that his father, also a lawyer, was pressured by the lawyers' lobby to persuade him to drop the case.

His father stood firm and was even attacked by a Jat lawyer. In retaliation, they confronted the lawyer in court. "This led to a case being filed against me under IPC sections 307 (attempted murder). They intended to pressure me into brokering a compromise, forcing me to go into hiding for three months until I obtained bail from the High Court." Kalsan added that to weaken the case further, a burglary was staged in his Hansi office, resulting in the theft of crucial files. At Rohini Court in Delhi, Rajat felt intimidated as his opponents had around 60 lawyers on their side. He appealed to the court against this, and the court ruled that both the accused and the victims would be represented by three counsels each and one public prosecutor. Finally, Rajat's hardships and relentless pursuit led to the conviction of the accused.

The Lawyer also sensitizes the people about their rights.
The Lawyer also sensitizes the people about their rights.The Mooknayak

Kalsan's Pursuit of Justice for Casteist Remarks by Celebrities

When cricketer Yuvraj Singh made casteist slurs against a Dalit community in an Instagram chat, Rajat Kalsan was the first to file a case against the former Indian batsman under the SC/ST Act for hurting the community's sentiments. Kalsan alleged that Singh was arrested but received VIP treatment from the police. Kalsan moved to the Supreme Court after Yuvraj Singh was granted interim bail. In a similar case, Rajat filed an FIR under section 3(1)(u) of the SC/ST POA Act against actress Yuvika Chaudhary, who made objectionable references to the Dalit community in a video. Munmun Dutta, known for "Tarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah," was also booked after making objectionable references to a community in a video. All three celebrities managed to secure interim bail, but the FIRs against them were not quashed by the courts. Clearly, a celebrity's status does not deter him from pursuing the case.

Bhatla Case: Narrow Escapes and Unyielding Resolve

In 2017, the issue of social boycott of the Dalit community in Bhatla village of Haryana came to light. Rajat's persistent efforts ensured the conviction of the accused in the High Court. However, Kalsan had to once again face the audacity of the dominant community. On the directions of the Haryana High Court, Hisar Judges visited the village to investigate the case. The members of the Bhaichara Committee, predominantly from the dominant community, threatened him in front of the Judges and accused him of violating the village's 'bhaichara' (brotherhood). They even told the judge that they didn't need the courts and would settle the matter through the Khap Panchayat.

Trouble escalated when they spotted Rajat and chased him, but he managed to escape. Another case was then registered against him for inciting Dalits against the Jats under sections 153(A) (promoting enmity between different groups), 153(B) (imputations prejudicial to national integration), and 120(B) (conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code.

April 2, 2018 Protest- Kalsan stated that during the protest against the dilution of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act on April 2, 2018, he was announcing through loudspeakers for peaceful protest. However, this did not prevent the authorities from filing a case against him.

Battle against desecration of Ambedkar statues in Haryana

Kalsan also waged a battle against the desecration of Ambedkar statues in Haryana. He noted that over the last decade, hundreds of instances of disrespecting Ambedkar statues by vandalizing them, throwing cow dung, etc., have occurred. However, in 99% of these cases, filed FIRs remain untraced, and those who filed them are being harassed by the government. They have particularly targeted him because of his involvement as a lawyer in these cases. Both the Congress and BJP governments have filed cases against him.

In fact, lawyer associations worldwide, under the umbrella of Amnesty International, had written to the Haryana government to drop the cases against him. Tensions once again simmered in the village of Bhatla when an Ambedkar statue was desecrated. During protests, the police lathi-charged the protesters, and Kalsan stated that they lodged false cases against him based on a Facebook Live video where he suggested that the police themselves were behind the statue vandalism and were "casteist goons in uniform." This was an attempt to stifle the August 2 protest. He had to remain underground until August 2 when he participated in the protest after presenting himself before the police that morning.

Despite numerous cases filed against him by the police, Rajat Kalsan remains unfazed. He has been acquitted in most cases, but around 8-9 cases still stand against him. Kalsan, who has gained international recognition for his human rights work, stated that these cases will not deter him, and he will now pursue them with even greater determination.

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