A Dalit teenager committed suicide in a Jodhpur village last week after he inadvertently dialled a wrong number that belonged to an upper caste girl and her brother allegedly assaulted and abused him for his “audacity”.
The unintended call by 17-year-old Ravi from Narva village on January 5 became a catalyst for his suicide.
“The girl’s brother, Shaitan Singh, called back to ask who he was and where he was speaking from. My brother told Singh his name and address,” said Revat Ram, who belongs to the Meghwal community.
Ram alleged that Singh hurled casteist abuses over the phone and asked Ravi how he dared to call up a Rajput household even by mistake.
“On Friday morning, he and two other men came to our house and slapped Ravi several times and pushed my mother. They also threatened him that they would kill him if he is seen around the village,” the brother said.
The incident left a deep impression in Ravi. The class 8 student was afraid to go to school as he had to pass through the village. Their home was on the outskirts and Singh’s was on the way.
The traumatised teenager hanged himself at his home around 4pm on Friday.
The incident underscored caste fault lines, especially against Dalits who are at the bottom of an age-old social hierarchy. Caste-based discrimination was banned in India in 1955, but centuries-old attitudes persist and low-caste people still face prejudice and attacks, particularly in rural areas.
The boy’s death enraged the Dalit community, which camped outside the mortuary for two days and refused to let go the body for an autopsy, demanding immediate arrest of Singh and his friends. They relented after police assured them action, and cremated the boy on Monday evening. A case has been filed and investigation started.
“Ravi said he had called the girl by mistake, but the girl’s brother sought to know why he called three or four times if he had dialed the number accidentally,” said Nitin Dave, the station house officer of Soor Sagar police station.
Dalit leader Kishan Meghwal threatened to protest outside the collectorate if action was not taken in five days. “It’s unfortunate that a wrong call led to a boy’s death,” he said.