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Dalit empowerment through resource politics
NAGPUR: The Khobragades of Kewlewada in Goregaon taluka of Gondia want government help to relocate to a safer place after 50-year-old patriarch of the family was set ablaze by villagers following a dispute over land on which the community wants to erect a Buddhist shrine. Sanjay, who sustained 95% burn injuries in the Saturday morning's attack, is battling for life at Government Medical College and Hospital.
The Dalit family claimed it is now in panic following brazen attack by six villagers, including woman sarpanch Madhuri Tembhre and her husband Hrishipal, which nearly claimed Sanjay's life. Sanjay, who was asleep, was doused with petrol and set ablaze by Tembhres and others including BJP's local leader Shreeprakash Rahangdale, Bhavlal Harinkhede, Punaji Thakre and his son Hemant. It is learnt that Thakres were supporters of a saffron-inclined rightist group.
"In 2012, villagers had gutted our pan kiosk to drive us way but we stayed back. The latest attack is second," said Sanjay's wife Devkabai. She stated there was no security for her family in the village where people may now aim for a bigger harm. "Had police taken pro-active role following the last incident, this attack could have been avoided," she said. Devkabai demanded government to come forward to rehabilitate her family that had become a target of other communities for struggling for a piece of land to erect a shrine for local Buddhists.
Sanjay's son Pradeep stated his father was being targeted by members of other communities who wanted to build a 'bhakt niwas' or residence for devotees on the land on which their community was planning to erect a shrine. "It was a matter of around 15 feet strip that the other community wanted to claim from our land where Buddhist community has been performing rituals from the last few years. Local police had intervened and attempt was made to resolve the issue but some people sabotaged the peace process," he said. "My father was insisting for a no-objection certificate from sarpanch as it was amicably decided. A day before the attack, my father wanted to remind the sarpanch and her husband about the pending process which likely enraged them," he said.
District collector Amit Saini and superintendent of police, Gondia, Dilip Zalke visited Kewlewada village on Sunday. SP Zalke said that a peace committee meeting had been already held at the village. "A section of the politicians are trying to incite others to gain political mileage. Police have taken action and arrested all. We are trying to ensure peace now," he said. Zalke stated that the culprits have been slapped with Scheduled castes and scheduled tribes (Prevention of Atrocities Act) too.
Social justice minister Shivajirao Moghe visited Sanjay at GMCH. Dalit leader Jogendra Kawade too called on him at the hospital. Some local organizations have staged protest in Nagpur.