Pahila mala chambharin bolvayche, ata maanane taai bolavtat (First they used to call me chambharin, now they call me taai)

A young Dalit widow with two children, Asha Kamble was harassed by a Vanjari man when she refused his advances. Now in her mid-thirties, Asha

established herself as a tailor after her husband’s death 10 years ago. She went to the police four times to complain; every time, she was turned away. Once the man  had, in a drunken state, knocked on her door at midnight and tried to force his way in. Asha didn’t let him in. She tied his hands to the door knob instead.

In March 2013, Asha was summoned by a 10-member village committee (the  Vanjari man was present as well) which accused her 13-year-old daughter, Saloni, of theft and demanded that she either pay `20,000 or leave the village. Asha knew her daughter admitted to the crime under pressure, so she offered only `1,000 as penalty. Khadaki is dominated by Vanjaris and Marathas. Only a handful of houses belong to Buddhist-Dalits and Maangs.

“I told them that I couldn’t afford to pay, nor could I afford to leave the village. The next day they went to the cops to register a complaint against my daughter. The cops told me as she was a minor they wouldn’t register it,” says Asha.

Angered by police inaction, the wife of Bansi Chole (one of the accused) asked Asha’s landlord to evict her. She asked for 15 days to wrap up her business, but they demanded that she leave within two. When she refused, they got a few villagers to throw her belongings out of the house, she said.

“As they were doing this, I took my kids and went to the police station. Initially the cops didn’t entertain me. Later they noted the complaint but didn’t give me the receipt,” says Asha. 

“After seven days, when police visited the village for the panchnama, I told them some of my belongings were missing.  But they didn’t bother to note that,” says Asha.

Later  police and relatives of the accused requested Asha to withdraw the case. One even offered to return her belongings and give her money. She says even the local MLA met her in this connection.

“They offered me `5 lakh and even said the house I stayed in would be transferred to my name free of cost. But I didn’t budge,” says Asha.

The police, Asha claims, fabricated statements from witnesses in a way that suggested that the case should be closed. Although they registered the case under the Prevention of Atrocities Act, a court dismissed the case. She has challenged the order.

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