NEW DELHI -- The death of a baby girl, who was less than one-year-old, and her two-year-old brother, as a consequence of inter-caste violence between Rajputs and Dalits has left the country numb with horror.
Putting together the pieces behind this bitter feud has revealed the unimaginable: a mobile phone was the trigger of a year-long feud between the two communities which resulted in these two children being burned alive.
In the early hours of Tuesday morning, upper caste men of the Rajput community allegedly set fire to a Dalit family in the village of Sunpedh in Haryana as a revenge attack. The children of Jitender were brought in a charred condition to the Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi, where his wife is presently admitted with 70 percent burns.
State police officials have told several news outlets that this tragic episode is a consequence of last year's incident in which three Rajputs were killed, and 11 persons from the Dalit community were arrested in the case.
An FIR filed by Desh Raj sheds some light on the confrontation, The Indian Express reported on Wednesday.
In the FIR, Raj claims that three Dalit men - Jagmal, Dalbir, Banshi and Vedprakash - stopped him in the village, last year, and told him that they had found a mobile phone belonging to his nephew, Joginder.
Jagmal allegedly threw the cellphone in the drain and asked him to call his nephew to take it out, the newspaper reported.
When Joginder arrived, he questioned three men about thrown his phone, according to to the FIR. “Within minutes, others, including two women, turned up with knives, iron rods and other weapons,” it said.
Raj’s relatives — Pappu, Indraaj and Bharat Pal — also reached the spot, but they were allegedly stabbed to death by the Dalits, the FIR said.
An FIR was registered against 11 Dalit men including two brothers of Jitender, the father of two children who were burnt alive on Tuesday.
“No phone was stolen or lost. A Rajput’s phone fell into a drain and he asked one of my relatives to pick it up and abused our caste. There was an argument, which turned violent," his relative Manish told The Indian Express.
Rajputs and Dalits in the village contest each other's version of the confrontation, last year.
Bijender Singh, a Rajput, told The Hindu that a a fistfight broke out after a Dalit was "jokingly" asked to pick up a mobile phone from the drain, and then the situation spiralled out of control.
“The boy jokingly asked the boy from the Jatav community to pick up the phone from the drain. The Jatav boy refused and a fist-fight broke out between the two groups. Soon the older members of the two communities also got embroiled into it,” said Singh
“Good sense did not prevail upon anyone and three Rajputs were brutally murdered. They were stabbed all over the body and their heads were crushed with bricks,” said Dharmender, another Rajput.
Members of the Dalit community, The Hindu reported, say that their men were framed by the police.
“It was an internal matter of the family whose members were murdered. We had no role in it. They fought among themselves and stabbed each other. We are poor and downtrodden and were implicated,” said Rakesh, Jitender's brother.