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'Gohana is Haryana's shame today'
Onkar Singh in Gohana | September 01, 2005 19:00 IST
The bylanes at Samta Chowk in Gohana, where over 50 houses belonging to Dalits were looted and torched on Wednesday, wore a deserted look a day later.
The damage was done by a 1,000-strong mob wielding lathis, sambals and carrying petrol tins. Barring a handful of policemen sitting on makeshift chabootras (platforms), hardly a soul was in sight.
Although the houses were burnt on Wednesday and the fires been put out since, pungent smoke continues to spiral from the embers.
Littered all over are broken water-coolers, washing machines, televisions, refrigerators, and other household goods that once adorned the houses that were burned down.
Usha, daughter of Dharampal, could not believe her eyes when she saw her father's house in flames on the national television channels. "I have come from Fatehabad. All the three houses belonging to our family members have been looted and set afire. I have not been able to meet any of my relatives so far," she wept.
Babu Lal, 60, was lucky that his gate of his was strong enough to withstand the ferocious attack of the hoodlums. "I and my wife were hiding in a room on the top. They came and tried to break the gate but they did not succeed. That is why you can see us alive. We would not have lived to tell the story otherwise," he said.
According to him the violence began around noon. Looting and arson continued till 4 p.m. "Looto, maaro, kisi ko na chhodo (loot, kill, don't let anyone go)," the frenzied mob bellowed even as it poured petrol on the houses and set them on fire. Some of the arsonists dragged gas cylinders out of the houses and lighted them, causing huge explosions, an eyewitness told rediff.com. "The police came after they (the mob) had left the place," he said.
Vinod Kumar, who works with New India Insurance Company, was still in a state of shock as he stood amidst the ruins of his house. "I have lost everything I had. We had always felt secure here, but it would be impossible to feel safe ever again," he said, as he took journalists around the remains of his smouldering home.
"This roof can come down any time," he said. Fortunately, he said, he had sent his wife and two children away to a relative's place a day before the attacks.
Pawan, a youngster, alleged that the administration knew the Jats would resort to violence, but precious little was done to take preventive measures.
"On Wednesday, at around 11 a.m., shopkeepers shut their shops anticipating violence. Over 1,000 Jats, including women, from 12 villages marched down Gohana roads to the Dalit localities, in protest over the killing of one their community members the week before. They demanded that the police arrest the culprits, thought to be troublemakers from the Dalit locality. But when the police failed to do so, the Jats lost their cool and retaliated. Today Gohana has become Haryana's shame," he said.
The state administration had pressed block development officers to take stock of the losses and recommend compensation to be given to every household.
"We know how corrupt these officials are. Who is going to give us compensation for the gold and jewellery lost in the violence? Some of them were preparing to get their daughters married off," said a safai karmachari (a municipal worker), who did not wish to be named.