On 14 May 2015, a five-decade-old land dispute between the Meghwals, a sub-community of Dalits, and Jats of Dangawas village in Rajasthan’s Nagaur district exploded into caste violence. That morning, a mob comprising hundreds of Jats marched to the disputed 15-acre plot of land outside the village, where 16 Meghwals from the family of Ratna Ram—a resident of Dangawas who claimed ownership of the property—were keeping vigil over the land. In an ensuing altercation, shots were fired and a bystander was killed. The police allege it was one of the Dalits who opened fire, a charge vehemently denied by the Meghwals. The crowd then violently assaulted the Meghwals, including running them over with tractors. Ratna Ram Meghwal and his brother Pancha Ram Meghwal died that day, while three others—Pokar Ram, Ganpat Ram and Ganesh Ram—succumbed to their injuries later.
The police registered two first information reports on the incident—one on a complaint filed by Ratna Ram’s family, naming 70 persons as accused, and another against the Meghwals for the death of the bystander, Rampal Goswami, who was neither Dalit nor Jat. When I visited Dangawas, Govind Ram Meghwal, Ratna Ram’s nephew, told me the local political and administrative machinery was insensitive to Dangawas’ Dalits. He also said that Vasundhara Raje’s government had not extended much support, while Sukharam Meghwal, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s member of legislative assembly from Dangawas, had sided with the Jats.
“We filed an FIR under the SC/ST Act and the police had to register it, despite the Jats political and financial clout,” Govind Ram told me, at his home in the Meghwal basti, situated on the outskirts of Dangawas. “We may vote for the Congress in the coming elections, but we will definitely not vote for the BJP,” he said, gazing at the temporary police tent outside his home, meant to contain caste tension in the village. In recent years, Rajasthan has witnessed recurring caste atrocities, such as the Dangawas violence, all of which present a challenge to the BJP’s support from the Dalit community for the upcoming assembly elections.