Sexual Assault on Dalit Women At Parbatta: Organized Violence Against Inter-Caste Marriage and Rights of Dalits

The organized and open attacks on Dalits and women in Shiromani Tola of Parbatta block in Khagariya district in Bihar on 27 July 2015 have exposed how both BJP and the ruling JDU have a nexus with perpetrators of caste and gender violence in Bihar.

On that day, an organized gang of 250 men from the dominant Bhumihar community attacked the Dalit tola openly. The attack was planned at a meeting held at local BJP leader Mithlesh Choudhury’s house. Dalit women were subjected to severe, brutal sexual assault, disrobing, bites/scratches on breasts, and were beaten black and blue with lathis. The attackers shouted slogans of “Jai Maa Durga” while carrying out this horrific attack on Dalit women. Those claiming to worship the ‘Mother Goddess’, had no qualms beating up a pregnant woman who had to be admitted to hospital with severe bleeding that lasted several days.

This attack was in ‘retaliation’ to the elopement and marriage of a Dalit young man Prince Kumar with a Bhumihar young woman. Prior to the attack there were attempts by the police and local leaders to pressurize the woman to return to her family. However, she bravely resisted these attempts, came to the police station and testified that she had married Prince in court of her own accord; and that Prince had in fact been her friend for many years and had even paid her fees to help her study. Both had been forced/coerced by their families into marriages with others, and both had refused to recognize those marriages.

Now, in a replay of the scenario of caste and communal violence at Bhagana and Atali in Haryana, the affected villagers of Shiromani Tola are unable to return home for fear of renewed attacks. They are forced to take shelter in a school in the neighbouring Goriyari village, and are dependent on the relief efforts of Dalits from neighbouring villages.

The JDU MLA RN Singh is openly protecting the perpetrators, and under his pressure, the local police, instead of arresting the main accused, is spending most of its energy in preventing the Dalits from protesting. Protesters were badly beaten up and lathi charged by the police. In spite of this the protests continue. Mithlesh Choudhury, one of the main accused in the incident, mobilized for Modi’s Muzaffarpur rally.

Incidents like Parbatta remind us of the brutal history of massacres and violence on Dalit and oppressed caste women by feudal forces in Bihar. The sexual assault at Parbatta, like that at Kurmuri earlier, follows in the footsteps of the Ranveer Sena massacres and the subsequent massacres of justice.

It also links up with the current countrywide trend of violence instigated by Sangh and dominant-caste groups against Dalits, inter-caste marriage, and women’s autonomy. The Sangh groups and BJP from Muzaffarnagar to Agra to Bareilly to Haryana to West Bengal are using the Beti Bachao slogan to instigate communal violence in the name of ‘rescuing our women from Muslims’ – and invariably this offensive attacks both inter-caste and inter-faith marriage. In Tamil Nadu, there have been a spate of murders of Dalit men who have married women from powerful middle castes, accompanied by arson and attacks on the villages of the Dalit men. This violence in Tamil Nadu has been organized by political parties and caste groups that have openly warned Dalit men to ‘remain within the Lakshman Rekha’ – and have advocated that women be denied higher education to maintain that they remain within the Lakshman Rekha.

Not only in Bihar but all over the country, there is a need to reject and resist the political forces that are trying to impose the caste-gender Lakshman Rekhas on society, to protest the violence on women and Dalits, and to intensify the assertion of the autonomy and freedom of women and Dalits.

Liberation Archive