Caste Hindus who disrupted Dalit cremation acquitted as court loses case papers


NEW DELHI: July 8, 2007. Twenty-two years after around 20 upper caste Hindus were accused of meting out inhuman treatment to the body of a Dalit which had been brought for cremation, the Uttarakhand high court has acquitted all of them. Reason: the sessions court's records had been "weeded out" in 1999 and, thus, could not be reconstructed. A copy of this unprecedented judgment delivered by Justice Dharam Veer last week has been made available in Delhi now. The case involves a Dalit called Barfu, who had lodged a police complaint in 1985 that some 200 Hindus had attacked mourners carrying his father Bachu's body for the last rites in village Dugadda, the place where Bachu wanted to be cremated. Enraged axe-wielding caste Hindus allegedly obstructed the funeral procession. They are also alleged to have insulted the body and abused the mourners. The complaint said the caste Hindus declared that the 'body' of a scheduled caste member couldn't be cremated at Dugadda because "it was a cremation ground for Savarna Hindus." The court verdict noted that the cremation was thwarted as the Hindus practiced untouchability. "The women cut the rope and threw the body on the roadside,'' the judgment noted. "The accused fought with Bachu's son and other mourners...The body was left and mourners ran for safety,'' the court noted. For three days, Barfu tried to recover his father's body, but failed. On the fourth day, Bachu, accompanied by the police, found the body lying on the roadside in the Hindu-controlled area where it had been thrown. The police later registered a case against two dozen people charging them with hurting the religious sentiments of Dalits, practicing untouchability and defying the Protection of Civil Rights Act. A trial court convicted the accused, and the verdict was upheld by a sessions court. The latter held the accused guilty of practicing untouchability and of committing various other offences under the rarely applied Protection of Civil Rights Act. The accused then sought a retrial. In response to the HC judge's order seeking case records in 2002, the person in charge of the record room replied in 2006 saying "the record of the case has been weeded out on October 15, 1999''. The HC then noted that the records couldn't be "reconstructed" to appreciate the evidence

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