Poverty Did Not Push the Parents of These Dalit Children to Consume Pesticide. Police Brutality Did

Social Commentary

Poverty Did Not Push the Parents of These Dalit Children to Consume Pesticide. Police Brutality Did

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

Just as the country was recovering from the news of the gruesome custodial deaths of Jayaraj and Bennicks in Tamil Nadu, another case of police high-handedness has come into the spotlight — this time from Madhya Pradesh’s Guna. A Dalit couple was reportedly left with no choice but to consume pesticide, in a bid to commit suicide, after the police allegedly approached their land on Tuesday and began destroying their crops, reports said.

The administration claimed that the 5.5 acres of land, on which the couple had been farming, belonged to the government and labelled Ram Kumar Ahirwar and Savitri Devi as illegal encroachers.

The Dalit couple, meanwhile, say they had been farming there for years. When they saw the police bulldozing their crops, they drank the pesticide, because they had a debt of ₹3 lakh, and saw no other way out.

“We don’t know whose land it is. We’ve been farming on it for a long time. When our standing crop was destroyed, we didn’t have any option but to kill ourselves,” Savitri Devi was quoted as saying.

Following this act, they were beaten by officers, even as they were being dragged to an ambulance. A disturbing clip showing the assault was shared widely on social media.

Another image of the Dalit couple’s children holding on to their parents’ unconscious bodies broke hearts on Twitter. When the kids tried to help their parents, they were verbally abused and pushed aside by the police, NDTV reported.

The husband and wife are now stable and recuperating in a hospital. However, a number of cases have been filed against them, even as Guna’s district collector gave the police officers a clean chit. “Had the team (the police) not acted, the couple could have died and more cases could have taken place,” he said, to much outrage online.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi shared the video on Twitter and wrote, “Our fight is against this mentality and injustice.”

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has now ordered an inquiry and removed the district collector, S Vishwanathan, and superintendent of police Tarun Nayak. Some on social media called for the chief minister’s resignation as well.

As the story continues to pick up steam, hopefully those actually responsible for grabbing the land, and the officers responsible for the merciless beating, will be taken to task.