Dalit issues

Uttarakhand: Dalits accuse upper-caste villagers of threatening their lives, flee village

An official said there were tensions after a Dalit youth refused to play the drums at an upper-caste wedding and allegedly pushed the groom’s mother.

A number of Dalits in a remote village in Uttarakhand’s Tehri district have fled their homes after allegedly receiving death threats from upper-caste villagers, The Indian Express reported.

Ghansali Sub-Divisional Magistrate CS Chauhan told the daily that an argument broke out between villagers on December 1 after a Dalit youth named Rakesh Lal backed out from playing the drums at a wedding ceremony for an upper-caste family. When the groom’s mother went to Lal’s house, he allegedly pushed her after she demanded that he play the instrument and refused to take a no for an answer. This sparked tensions in the village.

Lal has reportedly disappeared since the incident, and 19 Dalits left the village on December 4 after their lives were threatened, Tehri Circle Officer HS Rauthan told The Indian Express.

Rakesh Lal’s father Sohan Lal lodged a missing persons complaint at the Ghansali Police Station on December 3. In the complaint, he claimed that the upper-caste villagers had beaten them and ransacked their houses, PTI reported.

Fearing for their safety, the Dalit villagers took refuge in a building nearby that houses the offices of the block administration. Police officer Muhammad Akram said the villagers are afraid and have refused to return till Lal is found and those who threatened them are charged. They filed a police complaint against 19 upper-caste villagers at the Ghansali Police Station under provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and the Indian Penal Code.

The upper-caste villagers have also filed a case against 20 Dalits, including Rakesh Lal, the police added.

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