Its been seven years since the dalit families in Haryanas Bhagana village fled their homes due to a boycott by the dominant Jat community over a land dispute. They have been camping outside the district secretariat all these years, but justice seems to remain elusive. Not a single person has been prosecuted till date despite several complaints and writ petitions filed by the dalit families in the Haryana High Court.
The conflict can be traced to 2012, when the Bhagana panchayat allotted 280 acres of common land to families living below the poverty line (BPL) under the Mahatma Gandhi Grameen Basti Yojana. The move was in response to the Haryana government's announcement made in 2011 that land would be allotted to every BPL family. But the announcement never materialised and the panchayat decided to take matters into its own hands.
The sarpanch (head of the panchayat), along with the panchayat members, prepared a scheme to divide and distribute the common land among the BPL families. They allocated 1,000 square yards of land to each uppercaste Jat family while dalit households were allocated 100 square yards each. This was because the common land was distributed in proportion to the land that the residents already owned, and the dalit families were mostly landless. As a result, the Jats managed to corner most of the redistributed land. The dalits were also asked to deposit INR 1,000 as registration fee.
In February 2012, the dominant Jat community in the village decided to lay claim to a playground that the dalits had been using for years. On February 23 that year, the Jats uprooted the trees that the dalits had planted around the playground and levelled the seating arrangements they had installed. The Jats also claimed that the playground was part of the village common land. The dalits did not agree. When they approached the government, the Jats became angry and called for the social and economic boycott of the dalit community.
Unable to cope with the discrimination, 138 dalit families fled the village.
In March 2014, Bhagana witnessed a second exodus after four minor girls belonging to the Dhanak community were allegedly gangraped by five Jat men. The accused were arrested but later released on bail. The incident instilled fear in the minds of the remaining Dalit households, and close to 100 Dhanak families left the village. They came to Delhi to demand justice, where they stayed for almost a month and met political leaders and government officials. They returned to their village after filing a First Information Report.
Some members of the Dalit community filed a writ petition in 2014 in the Haryana High Court seeking rehabilitation of the affected families and prosecution of the accused. The case is still pending.