Maharashtra dalits allege police witchhunt
Thursday, November 16, 2006 (Nagpur):
The police have cracked down on those who have been peacefully protesting against the massacre of a dalit family in Maharshtra's Bhandara district.
Doctors and engineers have been forced to go underground. Their only crime is that they are dalits who have dared to speak up against atrocities.
A PhD student at the Nagpur University has been charged with being a Naxal sympathiser by the police.
Officials from the Intelligence Bureau have been questioning his relatives, carrying out searches and looking for more information on him.
"Is it a crime to stand up against injustice? I agree that the violent protests were not exactly what we wanted but our protest was entirely democratic. The police is trying to label us as Naxals and arrest us," said the dalit student.
Forced into hiding
Among those in Nagpur who have fled their homes are five doctors, eight lawyers and even a government official.
All of them are from the dalit community who took part in the protests against the rape and massacre of a dalit family.
The protests were led by citizens and activists but spiraled out of control. The Deputy Chief Minister accused naxals for inciting the protests, which led to a police crackdown.
For the last one-week, Bhimrao and Shalini Tambe have been waiting anxiously for some news about their sons. One of them is an engineer and the other a professor. Both of them were also part of the group of protestors, who have been forced into hiding.
"We are poor working class people. We don't want our children to be great leaders or anything. But how can anyone keep quiet when such a crime is committed? It could have been their mother and sister," said Shalini Tambe, protestor.
The police however, say there is no witchhunt.
''This is completely untrue. We have given no such orders. People are spreading such rumours just to give us a bad name and complicate and delay the investigations," said Pankaj Gupta, IG, Nagpur Range.
The situation is already very tense and the police clearly have their task cut out.
But the allegations will make the investigating agencies extra cautious which in turn could end up affecting the speed of the investigations.