SHABBIRPUR (WEST UP): The first wedding took place three weeks ago; the second will be solemnised on Friday. And yet, in different ways, everybody involved in these two Dalit weddings has been scarred by the May 5 inter-caste violence, a permanent black mark for this Thakur-majority village in west UP, that has since spilled to other parts of Saharanpur district.
First, the story of the wedding that’s yet to happen: it’s actually two weddings rolled in one. Daily wager Faqirchand’s two daughters, Preeti and Manisha, are getting married the same day. But anxiety, not elation, is the primary feeling of the two brides-to-be.
“Dar lagta hai kahin phir se jhagda na ho aur nuksan jo jaye (I worry that there might be another quarrel and more loss),” says Preeti, 22, who stopped going to school after class VIII.
Dozens of Dalit homes were torched and belongings destroyed after simmering tension between Dalits and Thakurs spiralled out of control.
A Thakur from a nearby village died in the violence. Close to Faqirchand lives Dal Singh, another Dalit daily wager, with his family.
On May 4, less than a day before Shabbirpur’s darkest day, his brother’s son had been married. A number of guests were yet to leave when the attack took place. “I kept pleading with them to spare us but they were relentless,” says his wife Kamla. The sutures below her right eye are still visible.
By the time the marauders — some armed with swords, according to eye witnesses — left, the house was history. The roof made of iron, wood and mud was brought crashing down and torched.
Even the iron beams were twisted by the heat. Singh and his two sons, as well as many Dalits in this village, work as daily wagers and earn about Rs 250-300 per day.
Over the years, Singh’s family had saved some money and bought items of comfort. When the two sons were married, wedding gifts added to their list of possessions.
The Singhs had a fan, a cooler, an almirah and two colour TVs among other comforts. There were four motorcyles parked at home that day; three of these belonged to wedding guests. Everything was charred. Since the floor was uncemented, some of the items lie burnt and submerged under the fallen roof.
“This happens whenever a poor person climbs up the ladder. The rich bring him down,” says Singh.
He is angry, not philosophical. Wedding preparations have begun at Faqir chand’s home. There are no signs of merriment, though. The halwai’s huge cauldrons have arrived. Among the items rented are 30 chairs and a flashy gold colour sofa partly shaped like a throne. The glitzy sofa, kept in Faqirchand’s brother’s house at stone’s throw, looks like a piece out of Dali’s surreal artwork. Especially since everything else in the room – furniture, clothes, other items – are burnt black. Faqirchand, father of the would-be brides, looked worried as he spoke with the freshly-transferred district officials who’d come calling to the village on Thursday. He was assured of safety. But he’s taking no chances. The wedding gifts he has offered to his sons-in-law include a motorbike each.
“These have already been sent to their villages,” he said. Suddenly, Dal Singh and his family have joined the ranks of homeless. He has received five kg of rice and another five kg of wheat as relief from the administration. His wife Kamala produces something from the remnants of a pot. Asked what’s it, she says, “It’s the mangalsutra of one of the bahus.”