At Delhi's Jantar Mantar, People Protest Against Caste Conspiracy

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New Delhi:  After almost two months of quiet protests in Delhi, angry men and women from Bhagana in Haryana marched towards the Parliament street police station shouting slogans against the police attempt to forcibly evict families from Jantar Mantar.

The protest site has been their home after many families fled from their village in panic, fearing a backlash from the upper caste Jat community. The Dalit villagers have accused the Jat community of shielding the men accused of raping four Dalit girls in the village.

In the din of the protest, we met a 17-year-old rape survivor, who told NDTV, the sexual assault she survived was not the first time she had endured the harassment.  "Two years ago I stopped going to school. They would follow us on their bikes, call us names, and intimidate us. These boys (Jats) would constantly harass us, and no one could do anything about it," she said angrily.

On March 23, 2014, she was among the four minor girls, aged between 13 and 18 years, who were raped when they stepped out late evening to relieve themselves. Five people were arrested but not the sarpanch who they have accused of being involved.

The displaced villagers say atrocities against them originally began over a 280-acre piece of common village land, which the Jats tried to usurp with the help of local authorities and the Khap.

The mother of one of the young rape survivors said, "The Jats told us- what will you do even if you go to Delhi? You don't scare us. We will see how you set foot in the village again."

A chillingly similar story of intimidation played out 250 odd km away in Uttar Pradesh's Badaun where the threat was even more explicit with one of the upper caste villagers openly proclaiming before the rolling cameras, "Let the media go from here and we will show you what Mahabharat means."

An open threat just days after Samajwadi Party ruled Uttar Pradesh saw the rape and public hanging of two girls where the police actively colluded with the accused.

Many activists feel it is an unequal battle from the start where years of political dominance by certain castes and rigid social structures make it an even more challenging fight.


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