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20-year-old Dalit gang-raped in Umerkot by ‘upper-caste’ feudals

KARACHI: A 20-year-old woman, ‘D’, was allegedly gang-raped in district Umerkot late Monday night. The incident took place in Haveli Thakur, near Chhorr Cantonment (a small town near the Indian border) in district Umerkot, Sindh.

D is a Dalit — the lowest (unscheduled) Hindu caste. Her husband and father-in-law are haris (bonded labourers), and work on farms owned by their feudal landlords (Thakurs). The rape was apparently planned, according to what D’s father-in-law, Knaji, told the Chhorr Cantonment police station. The family lives in a joint household, and D’s husband and father-in-law are the only two men in the house.

On Monday, the landlords ordered one of the men to go out and work in the fields, and told the other to fetch water. While D’s husband and father-in-law were out trying to obey the orders, Gangu Thakur, Bheemo (son of Arjun Thakur), Harpat Thakur and Ratan (son of Esro Bajeer) allegedly barged into the house around midnight and gang-raped D at gunpoint.

Knaji filed an FIR (No. 12/2007) at the Chhorr Cantonment police station. The four alleged rapists were named in the FIR under Sections 382, 354 and 34 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), Deeno Mal, the duty officer at the police station told Daily Times.

According to the police, the four men were inebriated at the time. The sections included in the FIR deal with forceful robbing, and attempting to rape with mutual understanding. No arrests were made by the time this report was filed.

Haveli (a Sindhi word for palace) is the native village of the former minority MNA Rana Chandar Singh, the father of former MPA Sindh Thakur Hameer Singh and the maternal uncle of the sitting MPA Sindh Rajveer Singh (PML-Q). Rana Chandar is the “lord” of the desert village which comprises around 2,000 houses of the Meghwar community.

Moreover, the men accused in the FIR are repeatedly pressuring D’s family to either withdraw the case, or “face dire consequences,” D’s relatives told Daily Times.

Faqeer Tapa Ram, an elderly person of the Meghwar tribe, said that D’s (alleged) gang-rape was not the first incident of its kind in the area. “Recently two girls from the same village were treated in the same way — again by ‘influential people’ in the area,” he said. Neither of those rapes were registered with authorities. “The police repeatedly turned down our request to file FIRs,” Tapa Ram said.

Meanwhile, former minority MNA and PPP leader, Dr Khatumal Jeewan, has condemned the incident and called upon the apex courts to take notice of it. He alleged that the Sindh government was hand-in-glove with the rapists.

Jeewan demanded that a high-level committee be constituted to probe into the matter. He also demanded that D should be assisted in undergoing a medico-legal examination.

Pakistan’s relatively small Hindu population (two million people) is mainly concentrated in Sindh. A vast majority of them, including Meghwars, Bheels, Jogis, Gawarias, Samis, Kabootras, Oads, Kolhis and Bagrism are Dalits. Most of these tribes work as landless labourers and artisans, with only a small minority being literate and in government service. The remainder (and numerically much smaller) Hindu population in the country comprises the considerably more influential “upper-caste” Hindus. These include Thakurs, Brahmans, Banyas, etc — rich merchants all over Sindh, or landlords in the southern and interior parts of the province.

Incidentally, the political representation of Hindus in Pakistan is dominated by the “upper-caste.” Most Hindus elected to the provincial and the national assemblies belong to these privileged castes. As a result, Dalits in the country continue to be subjected to considerable discrimination.

Violence against these Dalits, primarily by “upper-caste” Hindus, is normally treated as a minor and marginal issue. “Upper-caste” Hindus, mainly Rajputs and Thakurs (landlords) exert considerable influence among local bureaucrats. They control the police department, and permeate the judiciary. As a result, many crimes against Dalits go unregistered.

Source: Daily times

Date:5/9/2007

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