How Do Caste Atrocities Continue in “Modern” India? In Gujarat, Dalit Lawyer Killed for “Anti-Brahmin” Posts

Social Commentary

How Do Caste Atrocities Continue in “Modern” India? In Gujarat, Dalit Lawyer Killed for “Anti-Brahmin” Posts

Illustration: Mitesh Parmar

As the country wraps its head around the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, we’re far from forgetting about some of the other viruses plaguing our country. In September, the owner of a stationery shop was arrested under the suspicion that he had murdered a Dalit lawyer and activist, highlighting once again the reality of caste-based violence in 2020.

On Monday, after concluding their initial investigations, the police announced that they had found concrete evidence that proved the Dalit lawyer was killed over his social media posts, which were critical of Brahminism. The Special Investigative Team that was set up to look into the incident, said that the lawyer was murdered following a heated confrontation on the phone with Bharat Raval, the owner of a shop in Mumbai.

“Investigation has revealed that they had a conversation for 13 to 14 minutes and we have also recovered the recording from a mobile phone,” an officer was quoted as saying in The Indian Express.

Raval was arrested last month for the death of Devji Maheshwari, a senior member of the All India Backward and Minority Communities Employees Federation (BAMCEF) and of the Indian Legal Professionals Association.

According to the police, the two had often argued about the Dalit activist’s Facebook posts, which Raval considered to be “anti-Brahmin”. Raval had also threatened Maheshwari on several occasions to refrain from putting up such posts on social media.

“Raval, who is Brahmin, had asked Maheshwari not to create trouble since both of them are from the same village. He also threatened him at his office once. But Maheshwari told him that he would not back down,” an official told The Indian Express.

Maheshwari’s last post — a video of BAMCEF National President saying that members of Scheduled Castes, Tribes, and Other Backward Classes were not Hindus — had seemed to be the final straw for Raval.

According to the police, Raval travelled to Maheshwari’s hometown in Kutch in September with the intention to murder Maheshwari. They said Maheshwari was spotted entering his office building on the day of his death, followed closely by a man wearing a red T-shirt. Minutes later the man in the red T-shirt was seen fleeing the building.

Raval was booked for murder and criminal conspiracy, as well as under sections of the SC/ST Act. The murder had shocked members of the Dalit community in Rapar, Kutch, who had taken to the streets that week demanding justice.

The National President of the Bahujan Mukti Party, V L Matang, had also written to the Prime Minister seeking a CBI enquiry into the crime. For now, however, Maheshwari’s name will join an ever-growing list of Dalits who have been victims of caste-based atrocities in our country.