It is hard to say what left a bigger scar on the Dalit residents of Rajendra Nagar locality in Sonepat recently: a violent attack on them by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh men that injured over a dozen people, or the compromise they were driven to sign promising not to seek any legal remedy against their assailants.

Though the episode occurred not far from Delhi’s border with Haryana, it has failed to attract national media attention. But in Rajendra Nagar, there is no mistaking the atmosphere of fear and helplessness it has created among the residents, all of whom belong to the Valmiki caste.

The immediate, but perhaps not the real, cause of the attack on April 23 was absurdly small.

“My son was playing with his friends outside Hedgewar Bhawan [the district office of the RSS opposite the Dalit basti in Rajendra Nagar],” said Rajiv Kumar, a resident of Rajendra Nagar. “By mistake their ball went inside the campus. When my son went there to get back the ball, those inside thrashed him so badly that he came limping and crying.”

Rajiv Kumar said he went to Hedgewar Bhawan with his mother “to register our protest. But the moment we reached there, they attacked us with lathis and rods. Thereafter, the RSS men, nearly 40 to 50 in number, came out and attacked the basti.”

Rajiv Kumar suffered multiple fractures in his arms and legs. His mother Kamla Devi as well as nearly a dozen others received serious injuries. Many of them are still recuperating in Nidan Hospital on the outskirts of Sonepat.

Feeling of helplessness

“What was most distressing was the manner in which the police sought to save the RSS men,” said Mahipal, another victim of the attack. “Despite the CCTV footage [procured from a shop outside the locality] clearly showing the RSS men on the rampage wielding lathis and rods, the police did not make a single arrest. Nor did it register any case against them. What it did instead was to force us to sign a peace agreement with the RSS men on April 25.”

On his part, Superintendent of Police Ashok Kumar denied the charges: “The police did act swiftly. We did not make any arrest because before we could do that, the two sides had signed a compromise agreement, pledging not to take any legal action against each other. The police had no role in the compromise.”

The victims, however, insist that the police acted in connivance with the RSS men. “What option did we have?” said Rajiv Kumar. “The police was more interested in protecting them than taking action against the perpetrators of the violence. Even the written compromise the senior members of our community were forced to sign distorted the incident. What we experienced that day was a one-sided, brutal attack by RSS people. But the compromise document made the incident look like a clash between the two groups.”

Governmental medical aid

Ram Mihir, another Dalit resident of Rajendra Nagar and a former serviceman, says they were left to being mere spectators when the “compromise agreement was draft at the Sector 15 police station on April 25”. “Despite our insistence that it was an attack, the policeman who drafted the compromise made it seem like a clash between two sides,” said Mihir. “Nor did they agree to mention Dalit basti in the document. We had to sign because it is the government of the RSS and the police was acting on its behalf.”

The one-page compromise document does indeed call the incident “a clash” between “Rajendra Nagar and RSS”. There is no mention of an attack by RSS men or of the fact that the victims were Dalits or that they belong to the Dalit basti.

The compromise has three points. The first, which is central to the agreement, says: “Neither of the two sides will take any legal action against each other.” The other two build on this, saying that “the two sides” will not indulge in disruptive activities in the future and that the government will provide medical treatment to the “injured residents of Rajendra Nagar”.

The agreement does not mention the cause of what it calls “a clash”. But the residents of the Dalit basti of Rajendra Nagar know that a cricket ball could not have generated such a violent response from the RSS. “No matter whom we vote for, the RSS people consider us Congress supporters,” said Ram Mihir, as other Dalit residents of the locality nodded in approval. “You think they would not have thought of teaching us a lesson now that they are in power.”