Riot: Terror Unleashed On Community
Arson, looting, vandalizing are fast becoming the ‘standard’ way to lodge a protest. So, all across the world today we see riots breaking out over even trivial issues and mob going on a rampage, bringing public life to a standstill. Once the storm blows over, the government takes note and gives compensation for the ‘damaged’ property. The question is, how does a small community – especially one based in a remote village is affected when such riot takes place? Above all, who takes cognizance of such sufferings? Satyawan Verma, a former village council chief turned community correspondent throws some light on the issue in a video, shot after a recent riot in India’s Haryana state.
In Haryana’s Hissar district hundreds of youth from the Jat community went on a rampage for 3 days from 13-15 September 2010. They were demanding inclusion of the Jat community in the list of Other Backward Caste (OBC). Once included in the list, the community would get reservation in Government jobs and educational institutions.
During the 3 day demonstration, the youth vandalized public and private properties, blocked highways, attacked and looted shops and even the railway station and police station on fire.
The government usually turns a blind eye to such rioters, like Haryana government did. It remained silent for the most part of the riot, then realizing the situation was going totally out of control, clamped a curfew and called in the Army to deal with the mob. The chief minister also made a quick smart move by declaring compensation for those whose property was vandalized.
But, is all the loss and damage countable? Do the victims of the riot include only those whose property was vandalized? Certainly not, says Satyawan, who has a long list of the way a community suffers even while the government waits and watches and the mob gets a free hand to loot and ransack.
The list of a riot’s victim includes children of the village. These are children who go to nearby towns because there are no schools in the village. Once the rioters blocks all roads, the students are stranded as buses do not ply and they must walk for miles to reach back home. Daily wage earners don’t find work. Small businesses like tea kiosks, kiosks selling fast food, vegetable/fruit sellers are forced to stay off road/market. Most of theshops , ransacked by the mob, are forced to close down for good. Hospitals provide no service. Communication service is paralyzed, cutting the village away from the rest of the world. So what goes in, nobody knows.
Above all, every member of the community lives in fear – like Satyawan did, anticipating the mob to attack his village any time.
Normally the media talks about it for a few days, before shifting focus to another breaking event. So issues like loss and sufferings and accountability take a back seat. But so great was the damage caused by the riot this time, that it forced a local NGO called Anti-Corruption Federation of India to move the court against the rioters. The NGO filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Haryana High Court, demanding compensation for private businesses that suffered heavy losses in the arson. The court, in turn, asked the government to explain what action it was initiating against both the rioters and the police.
The verdict on the case may take a long time to come as there are hundreds of cases pending before the court. But Satyawan decided to shoot this video to voice the opinion of his community, whose loss and the sufferings, he personally shared. In fact, Satyawan was a Sarpanch/village council head for five years during which he saw a lot happening around him – female foeticide, dowry deaths, caste violence, honour killings etc and each time he tried doing whatever he could, to stop the wrong.
Five years later, Satyawan has voluntarily stepped down from his post, but is carrying the same duty of pointing out the wrong . In fact this time he took a risk by shooting the riot – something that can makes him an easy target of the rioters.
But for Satyawan, speaking out is important because it is the only way to highlight the social wrongs of our society.