Last-minute talks prevent caste clash
Hindustan Times, 19 September 2004
Harjinder SidhuBhucho Mandi
TENSION PREVAILING in the village over the alleged biased attitude of the Dera Baba Roomi Wala against Dalits was diffused today after a compromise was reached between the panchayat and Dalit Sena, much to the relief of the district administration.
With the timely intervention of the panchayat and Dalit Sena’s national vice-president Subash Chand Bagri, deputed by president Ram Chander Paswan to review the situation, an inevitable clash was prevented.
Situation became tense today when hundreds of armed Dera followers and Dalit Sena activists begun gathering in the village. The mob even manhandled mediapersons and tried to snatch the cameras.
The dera has been preventing the Dalits from partaking langar with others or offer ardas. They weren’t even allowed to offer parshad and inquiries were made about caste on the basis of a person’s appearance. The Dalits have been up in arms against this discrimination and had been demanding an end to these practices.
During the talks today, the Panchayat assured that there would be no discrimination over langar, offering of prayers and taking bath in holy sarovar. Bagri prevailed over the Dalit Sena activists and they postponed the stir, for the time being. However, the panchayat left it to dera head Baba Khem Singh to decide on parshad.
Tension had gripped the area after the Dalit Sena had decided to hold a meeting today at the Bhai Jiwan Singh Gurdwara against discrimination. The panchayat was against the move.
Nakas were laid on the roads leading to the dera. A number of Dalit Sena activists were rounded up last night and early today as a preventive measure. Even Bagri wasn’t allowed out of the Circuit House. When the panchayat offered to hold talks, the Dalit Sena leader accepted the offer.
The Dalit Sena, under the banner of Jat Pat Hatao Action Committee, has been protesting against the dera management for the last four months. A delegation had meet Akal Takht Jathedar Joginder Singh Vedanti and SGPC authorities, seeking action against the dera management committee. The Sena had also raised this issue with the Congress high command, alleging that the state government was not attending to their complaints due to Capt Amarinder Singh’s proximity to the dera.