On 2 April, thousands of Dalits across the country took to the streets to protest a Supreme Court judgment that diluted the provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Violence ensued, as protestors were attacked by the police and Hindutva goons, leading to the death of at least nine people. “Since the protest on 2 April, against the dilution of the SC/ST Act, the condition has become so hostile for Dalits that if we go to lodge a complaint with police, they rather start looking into our background,” Mahesh Kumar Mandeliya, a 30-year-old labourer from Gwalior, told me.
Mandeliya is a Jatav resident of Galla Kothar, which is one of several Dalit colonies around Chauhan Pyau—a Rajput stronghold in Gwalior. According to the residents of these colonies, the Chauhans and Tomars of Chauhan Pyau—both Rajput communities—are some of Gwalior’s most influential families, all of whom enjoy political patronage. The residents said that on 2 April, Rajput men from Chauhan Pyau fired pistols and rifles indiscriminately at the protest rally in the area and stormed nearby Dalit colonies, such as Galla Kothar and Bhim Nagar. Two Dalit men died in the violence—one from each colony—and over a dozen others sustained bullet injuries.
Following the violence, the state police registered multiple first information reports on complaints filed by both Dalit and Rajput residents of the area. In Chauhan Pyau, I spoke to two Rajput men—Raja Chauhan and Mahendra Chauhan—who were accused of firing at protestors. Raja was granted anticipatory bail before he was arrested, and claimed he fired his weapon “to protect their women,” while Mahendra, who was accused of killing two Dalit residents, was released on bail within three months of his arrest, and claimed he fired in “self-defence.” But there were no casualties among the Rajputs, and neither was any weapon seized from the Dalits.