Knife in the Back

In western Rajasthan, Dalits may be murdered for the endearments they call their children, for twirling their moustaches—or for their social media. This is the story of one young man’s death and how it is foregrounded by a legacy of caste crime.

Knife in the Back by Kapil Kajal; Illustration by Akshaya Zachariah for

On the eve of Independence Day this year, news broke of the death of a child. Nine-year-old Inder Meghwal succumbed to injuries allegedly inflicted by his teacher. This Rajput schoolmaster, reports said, punished Inder for drinking water from a pot meant for the exclusive use of privileged-caste people. The incident took place in a private school in Surana village of Jalore district in Rajasthan.

Exactly five months earlier, on 15 March, a man with Inder’s last name was murdered in a crime that was also chalked up as an “atrocity” in official data. Jitender Meghwal, a 28-year-old health worker, was allegedly stabbed to death by two Brahmin men.

A month before the stabbing, a young man named Suraj Singh Rajpurohit posted a video on his Instagram page. The camera panned to him at the wheel of a car, and a threatening song played in the background.

Chodenge nahi,
Bura itna laga hai baat ka, 
Todenge to dhang se todenge, 
Varna phir kya faayda vardaat ka, 
Hum tumhe maarenge, zaroor maarenge. 

We will not let you get away, 
You have disgraced us, 
We will break you completely,
The only kind of crime worth committing, 
We will kill you, we will definitely kill you.

On 15 March, Suraj and his friend Ramesh Singh Rajpurohit waylaid Jitender on the road leading from Bali town to Barwa village in Pali district. They are alleged to have stabbed him 20 to 30 times before speeding off. According to the post-mortem report, this resulted in 23 grievous injuries to Jitender. The threat Suraj had delivered on social media had ended in cold-blooded murder: a caste crime, like the one that was to result in Inder’s death in a few months’ time.

Jitender’s killing also made national headlines, and appeared to shock the conscience of some readers of English-language newspapers, and some social media users. It didn’t have a similar effect on most people in western Rajasthan’s Godwar region, made up of the districts of Jalore, Sirohi and the southern portion of Pali.

It is a region where the size of a man’s moustache can cause fights just as it did centuries earlier. For privileged-caste men, moustaches worn by Dalit or Bahujan men can be a pretext for assault and murder. Not coincidentally, when news of Jitender’s killing first broke, his twirling moustache, a point of pride in his social media photographs, was reported to have provoked his killers.

Caste oppression has a long and ongoing history here, far outside the tourist conception of Rajasthan as a paradise of hospitality and gracious living. Some atrocities get reported, but many don’t. “Pali is one of the districts where the caste system is still in practice since independence,” Om Prakash Meghwal, Jitender’s brother and a teacher by profession, told me. “Dalits are dependent on the upper caste in terms of employment opportunities, as we don’t have any land rights.” The Rajpurohit community, to which Suraj and Ramesh belong, are the dominant Brahmin group in Godwar.

Seventy years after India adopted the emancipatory promises of its Constitution, communities like the Meghwals continue to live under caste’s shadow in the towns and villages of Godwar. Here, oppressor castes view Dalit aspirations as a challenge to their entrenched social positions.

Over the last two decades, a measure of economic mobility, coupled with the rise of social media, has provided Dalits with outlets to assert their individuality. But it has fanned old resentments and birthed new ones. Signs of self-respect, like moustaches, often go hand-in-hand with political and social assertion. The pound of flesh, as in the case of Jitender Meghwal, can be no less than life itself.

An Identity


itender Meghwal was born on 13 January 1994. After high school, he attended the Padam Shree Nursing Institute in Falna, about 15km from Barwa village, where he was brought up. From 2015 to 2018, he worked on the nursing staff of Goyal Hospital and Research Centre in Jodhpur. In 2020, before the nationwide Covid lockdown was announced, he returned to Barwa to prepare for a government job in nursing. In 2021, he started work as a Covid health assistant in the government hospital in Bali town.

As a nursing student in Falna, Jitender used to visit the town’s Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh centre. Om told me that he’d even completed a seven-day training programme to join the organisation. But Jitender broke with the RSS in 2018.

“A Dalit cannot be in the RSS because our ideology never matches,” the journalist, author and social activist Bhanwar Meghwanshi told me on a phone call. Meghwanshi was also part of a committee constituted by Dalit rights and civil rights organisations to look into the matter of Jitender’s death. “The RSS is willing to consider us as Hindus, but it wants to restrict us to the same old caste hierarchies,” he continued. “So Jitender or any other Dalit, apart from political reasons, cannot be linked to RSS because of this massive ideological difference.”

Two weeks after Jitender’s death, local Rajpurohits organised a rally to demand the release of Suraj and Ramesh. “There were many workers and leaders of the RSS in that rally,” Satish Kumar told me. Kumar is the co-founder of Dalit Manavadhikar Kendra Samiti, a Dalit rights organisation. “They were wearing saffron outfits and chanting ‘Jai Shree Ram’.”

“Suraj could not digest the fact that, being a Dalit, Jitender was so popular.”

Om Prakash Meghwal

Jitender’s journey led him towards becoming a Dalit rights activist and a follower of B.R. Ambedkar. It began during a set of protests against a Supreme Court order in April 2018, Meghwanshi said.

The order set aside the requirement that anyone accused of an offence per the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act be arrested immediately; it directed that action now be taken only after a preliminary investigation. On the face of it, this change upholds the legal presumption of innocence. In practice, it makes it easier for India’s many law and order agencies, dominated by privileged castes, to exercise leniency in favour of privileged-caste accused.

Jitender participated in protests against the order. He also began to share his views and beliefs on social media. His posts featured quotes from Ambedkar and Jotiba Phule, amidst photographs of himself. He often referred to himself as a “royal” in captions, and twirled his moustache for the camera. It started to draw the attention, and the resentment of young privileged-caste men in Barwa.

“Suraj was jealous of Jitender’s social presence,” Om said. “Jitender was stylish. He used to keep a moustache, which is often meant for the privileged caste in Rajasthan, and led a royal life. Suraj could not digest the fact that, being a Dalit, Jitender was so popular.”

The Assault


uraj Singh Rajpurohit attacked Jitender for the first time in 2020. It was 9.30am on the twenty-third of June, and Jitender was sitting outside his house. “There was already a cold war between them”—Jitender and some privileged-caste youths from Barwa—“on social media,” Om said. “Suraj said that Jitender made eye contact with them.”

“In this village,” he went on, “if you are a Dalit, you cannot make eye contact with the upper-caste people.” Not only is eye contact taboo, a Dalit person is also meant to address a privileged-caste person with the honorific “hukum sa” or “banna sa.” In Barwa, some people said that Jitender had twirled his moustache while looking at Suraj. To the Rajpurohits and others like them, that act was the equivalent of throwing the gauntlet.

On that June morning, Suraj and his friend Kamlesh Rajpurohit got off a motorbike and began to abuse Jitender. They called him casteist slurs like “neech” and “kamin koda.” They started to hit Jitender with an iron rod, grabbing his neck and tearing at his clothes. “How can you look in our eyes?” they demanded. In the melee, Jitender escaped back home, but both Suraj and Kamlesh followed him into his house, and continued the assault.

Jitender’s mother Sugna Devi tried to intervene. Suraj and Kamlesh hit her and tore her clothes as well. Alerted by the commotion, neighbours rushed into the house to extricate Jitender and his mother, but Suraj and Kamlesh started pelting stones at them, too. When they left at last, they issued an open threat to everyone who had come to save Jitender. They would set his house on fire, they said.

These allegations are in an FIR that Jitender filed after the assault. In it, Jitender attested: “It is clear that Suraj Singh and his friends Kamlesh Singh Rajpurohit and Chandan Singh have a sense of enmity against Meghwals because of which, it became difficult for us to live in the village. Suraj Singh and his friends need to be arrested as soon as possible otherwise they are a huge threat to us.”

Suraj and his friends were charged under provisions of the Indian Penal Code and the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Soon after the case was registered, the Rajpurohits of Barwa began to protest against the Meghwals. On his TikTok account, where he went by the handle ‘kingofgorwad01,’ Suraj, 26 years old then, posted a video declaring a boycott of the Meghwals. No Meghwal would henceforth be allowed to hold a social function in Barwa village, he proclaimed.

The Rajpurohits exerted pressure on Jitender’s family to withdraw the police complaint. On 25 June 2020, Jitender wrote to Pali’s Deputy Superintendent of Police, informing him of death threats from the accused and their families.

Suraj and his friends were let out on bail within days of their arrest. Om told me that they were released on the basis of a Rajasthan government notification directing the grant of interim bail and special parole to prisoners over the Covid outbreak. Devender Singh, Bali police station’s Station House Officer (SHO), confirmed this. “When the case was filed,” Devender said, “Suraj was absconding for some time. We caught him, but he remained in jail for just two-three days before getting bail.”

On 8 April 2020, a High-Powered Committee of the Rajasthan government had recommended amending the Rajasthan Prisoners Release on Parole Rules, 1958, “for immediate easing of the population inside prison cells.” But this benefit was meant to be extended only to those who had displayed good behaviour when released on parole previously. The interim bail relaxation was to be given only after assessment by an Undertrial Review Committee.

On 6 August 2020, Suraj filed a petition in the Rajasthan High Court to quash the FIR by Jitender. On the court’s website, the case’s status is showing as pending.

The Numbers


itender’s death did not shock Pali district. Here, Dalit grooms can’t sit on a horse during their wedding processions. There are other unspoken diktats: no playing music on DJ sound systems; no riding motorbikes in front of the houses of privileged-caste individuals.

Even adult Dalits are required to call privileged-caste children “banna sa,” a term of deference. Privileged-caste names are often added to names on the boards at the entrance of villages: a board outside Barwa proclaims, Rajpurohito ke niwas sthan Barwa mein aapka swagat hai. Welcome to Barwa, home of the Rajpurohits. And in village after village, Dalits cannot drink the same water as their caste oppressors.

Rajasthan regularly alternates between electing the state’s largest parties, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, to power. Both are dominated by privileged-caste leaders, and in recent years, the state has seen no appreciable difference in caste crimes under either government.

In National Crime Records Bureau reports, Rajasthan consistently ranks poorly when it comes to crimes against Scheduled Castes. Data from the last three years reflects a discouraging trend: 4607 crimes against Scheduled Castes in 2018, 6794 in 2019, 7017 in 2020. According to a report by the Rajasthan State Crime Record Bureau (RSCRB), there were 7524 crimes against Dalits in 2021. Sixty-five Dalits were murdered here in 2019; 84 in 2020, and 85 in 2021.

The rape data within caste crimes is also appalling. On 15 March this year, the very day that Jitender was killed, a 26-year-old Dalit woman was allegedly gang-raped at gunpoint in front of her husband and children in Dholpur district. In August 2021, a 16-year-old Dalit girl was allegedly gang-raped and blackmailed for money in Alwar district.

And in March 2016, the body of 17-year-old Delta Meghwal had been found in the water tank of the Jain Adarsh Teacher Training Institute in Nokha town of Bikaner district. The incident led to outrage in the Dalit community across India. (More than five years later, in October 2021, a POCSO court held physical instructor Vijender Singh guilty of kidnapping, rape and the abetment of Delta’s suicide.)

Jitender’s death did not shock Pali district. Here, Dalit grooms can’t even sit on a horse during their wedding processions.

In 2020, according to NCRB data, Rajasthan registered 5310 rape cases, the highest among Indian states. Dalit women often choose not to file complaints in rape cases for fear of retribution and having reconciled to the bleak prospects of securing justice. Yet, according to the RSCRB report, these are the numbers of Dalit women who have been raped in Rajasthan in the last three years: 554 (2019), 476 (2020), 566 (2021).

SHO Devender Singh, however, insisted that things are getting better for Dalits. “We are regularly doing community meetings,” he said. “We are having a dialogue with the people of every community to live in peace and harmony. I feel there is a good message spreading after these meetings.”

The Killing


fter the dust around the June 2020 assault had settled, Jitender started work as a Covid health assistant in Bali town’s government hospital. “He used to assist in giving the vaccine,” Om said. “During the second wave, he stayed in hospital for three months. Even in Barwa, he helped with the vaccination drive and helped everyone, including Rajpurohits.”

On 15 March, Jitender and his friend Harish Meghwal, who worked with him in the same hospital, completed their shift at 3pm. They got on a motorbike—a Bajaj CT 100—and headed towards Barwa. They’d been riding for just about five minutes when Jitender was stabbed with a knife.

“That was Suraj and one of his friends, Ramesh Singh,” Harish said. “They stabbed Jitender three times on the back and neck before we fell from the bike. Since the bike was slow, I didn’t sustain any major injuries.” As soon as they fell, Suraj and Ramesh stabbed Jitender 20 to 30 times, Harish remembered.

As he was being viciously attacked, Harish told me, Jitender said he would take the 2020 complaint back if his life was spared. “Ab upar jaake lena case waapis,” Suraj reportedly said. Now go up to heaven and take the case back.

The attack took place on a busy road. After Suraj and Ramesh zoomed off, Harish flagged a four-wheeler on the way to Bali. “He was bleeding heavily,” Harish said, “I took him back to Bali Government Hospital. I didn’t have a contact number for his family members, so I told one of my friends, Rajkumar, to inform them.”

Jitender lost blood rapidly from multiple wounds on his body. From Bali, he was transported to a bigger hospital in Sumerpur, about 30km away. But he died on the way, before the sun had set that evening.

The FIR filed by Jitender’s family contains details of what he told Om on his deathbed. Jitender was convinced that the attack had been in the works. “In 2020, we filed a case against Suraj under the SC/ST Act. Suraj, along with his friend Ramesh, followed me when I was coming home. They knew the time and the route we take to get home. They were on a bike which was registered in Gujarat.” Suraj had been working in a cloth shop in the city of Surat in the neighbouring state. It turned out that Ramesh and he had ridden about 800km on their motorbike to kill Jitender.

“They used words like ‘dedh,’ ‘kamin,’ ‘neech’ for me,” Jitender said on his deathbed, according to the FIR. “‘How come you, being a Dalit, can file a case against us?’ they said. I started to shout, and the locals heard and started to gather at the spot. So Suraj and his friend left the spot, leaving their sharp knives behind.”

SHO Devender Singh said the police took strong action against the accused. “We arrested them under the officer scheme which is meant for heinous crimes,” he said. “This guarantees a fast punishment. Our investigation revealed that Suraj killed Jitender only to take revenge for the case he filed in 2020.”

Achal Singh Deora, the case’s investigating officer, was convinced there was no larger conspiracy at play. “We have arrested both the accused and apart from them, no one is involved,” he said.

But people like Kishan Meghwal believe many others from the Rajpurohit community were involved from the start.

Kishan, who is based in Jodhpur, is the state convenor of the Dalit Shoshan Mukti Manch. “How can it be possible that two people simply came from another state a day earlier and killed Jitender?” he said. “According to the police, Suraj left Surat on 13 March. When they started their journey from Surat to Barwa, they switched off their phones and left them in Surat.”

“On their way, they called many relatives and friends from numbers that belonged to other people. The police did not take that into account.” he continued. “Now the police say that these two people are only involved in the crime but we think that there are more involved: people who followed Jitender to know his timetable, asked around about him, and helped Suraj and Ramesh to stay in the village.”

“After committing the crime, via Takhtgarh and Aaroh, the accused reached Shri Kheteshwar Bhagwan in Barmer district,” Kishan added—a temple built by an ascetic revered by Rajpurohits. “That is where they were arrested from. I believe others helped them reach there.”

“We have made heroes on social media now and hate is increasing because of it. The purpose of this crime was to maintain fear. They felt fear was decreasing among people—say, among Dalits.”

Devender Singh

Kishan drew a line between Suraj’s social media, like the TikTok account, and the killing. “The police is not even taking these into account. Suraj’s accounts have been deleted.” It was a clear case, he thought, of how social media could become grounds for what he called “a cold war.” He demanded an investigation of the numbers that Suraj and Ramesh called in the month before they left Surat.

Brijesh Soni, Pali’s additional superintendent of police, denied that a social media war had anything to do with the killing.

“Suraj and his friends killed Jitender to maintain their glory on social media,” Devender Singh accepted. “We have made heroes on social media now and hate is increasing because of it. The purpose of this crime was to maintain fear. They felt fear was decreasing among people––say, among Dalits.”

A Legacy of Violence


n Barwa, some of my Meghwal interviewees could recall a litany of instances of violence against their community.

On 1 March 2005, Mohan Lal Meghwal was allegedly killed in the main square of Bedkalan village in broad daylight. The perpetrators were Thakur Shivdan Singh Rathore, a former MLA, and his sons Tikam Singh and Diler Singh. They inflicted 19 knife wounds on Mohan Lal, then ran a tractor over him. There were reportedly many witnesses to the brutality, but no one came forward to help Mohan Lal, because the Rathores yielded considerable clout among local authorities.

The proximate cause for Mohan Lal’s killing was his standing for village panchayat elections, usually a stronghold of privileged-caste Rajputs, where men like Shivdan Singh could get his loyalists elected to posts reserved for candidates from Scheduled Castes. Mohan Lal’s nomination papers were rejected by the election officer on the basis of documents Shivdan had fabricated. Mohan Lal had wanted to file a case in the local court against his rejection. He was on his way to meet his lawyer when he was killed. [1]

Five years before this, in July 2000, Chunni Lal Meghwal of Jadan village was killed by Thakur Bhairu Singh, his sons and other family members. They used knives, axes, swords and sticks. Chunni Lal’s provocation was that he called his daughter “bai sa,” an endearment that is also an honorific, in front of privileged-caste individuals. He also rode his bicycle in front of their house. [2]

In the specific context of Meghwal-Rajpurohit relations, an incident from March 2016 kept cropping up in my conversations. It was Holi, and the Rajpurohits had taken out a march in Ghenri village. The procession involves a garba-like dance, locally called gair. Raju Meghwal, a man from the village, had overtaken the procession on his motorbike.

The Rajpurohits considered this an insult to their pride. They stopped Raju and beat him up. There were policemen accompanying the procession, who halted the fight and let Raju go. But, later at night, a community elder told me, 200-300 Rajpurohits went to the Meghwals’ neighbourhood and destroyed many houses. They also thrashed many Meghwal people, including children, women and the elderly.

“It is very shocking to see what has been happening with Dalits in Pali district over the last 20 years, in the 21st century,” Suraj Kumar Bauddh, founder of a Dalit rights organisation called Mission Ambedkar, said.

When I asked Bauddh why instances of violence seem to have increased, he gave me a number of reasons. “More incidents are coming to light because of the internet and social media presence,” he said. “Secondly, organisations are slowly teaching Dalits about their rights. So the new generation, especially, doesn’t want to live at the mercy of big castes. The third reason is economic growth.”

Bauddh gave the example of Jitender to stress this last point. “See, he was a health worker in a government hospital. Dalits are progressing, even if it’s at a snail’s pace. However, the upper castes, especially in the rural areas, have not progressed. When they see Dalits growing, they feel that their power is being compromised. They also see it as losing cheap labour.”

A Village Divided


hroughout India, caste oppression is directly linked to land rights. British colonialists and local rulers, formalising the system of rent extraction from productive land, deepened an already unequal relationship between landlords and their workers. It helped create a modern pattern of labour exploitation that upheld caste hierarchies.

The land revenue records of Barwa bear out the Meghwals’ economic dependence on the Rajpurohits. According to the records, 3953 of the 4346 landowners of the village are Rajpurohits. Ninety-seven percent of the village’s land is under their control. Only 40 Dalits own a piece of land in the village. Together, Dalit ownership of land amounts to less than 1 percent, even as they make up nearly 35 percent of the total population.

The current MLA for Bali is Pushpender Singh Ranawat of the Bharatiya Janata Party, from the Jat caste. When he came to Barwa in the wake of Jitender’s killing, the Rajpurohits boycotted him. After he raised the issue of the killing in the Rajasthan assembly, the Rajpurohits called for barring his entry into all the areas and villages they controlled.

“They are so powerful that they can even boycott a sitting MLA and order him to not come to their villages,” Kanha Ram, a taxi driver from Barwa, said. “Just imagine what they have done to the Meghwal community.”

The Rajpurohits, whose title literally means “royal priests,” are Brahmins, whose traditional occupation included conducting religious rites in Rajput kingdoms. The Meghwals are considered out of caste, lower than the lowest rung of the varna system. Oral histories suggest that their work once included clearing up the remains of dead animals, designated a highly polluting task in Hinduism. Privileged castes derogatorily refer to Meghwals as “dhedh,” thought to derive from the occupation of dragging dead animals out of the villages. [3]

“The Meghwals provide labour to the Rajpurohits—they work on their farms and herd their cattle,” Kanha Ram told me. “Now, some like Jitender got an education, moved out and realised that the Rajpurohits are not entitled to this labour. But those are a handful. A majority are still dependent on Rajpurohits to meet their needs.”

I discovered that the Rajpurohits were especially angered by the visit of the Bhim Army leader, Chandrashekhar Azad, a Dalit politician of national prominence. A week after the killing, Azad and thousands of his followers came to meet Jitender’s family. “Rajpurohits were unhappy that we called Azad,” Om told me. “But we never called him, he came by himself. Iske baad, unhone hamaara hookah-paani band karwaa diya”—they socially boycotted us after this incident. Many Meghwals who worked on Rajpurohit farms or in their houses lost work because of the boycott.

Locals in Barwa told me that some Meghwal families still work as bonded labour for Rajpurohits. Vinod Rajpurohit, a social activist from Barwa, confirmed this. “Nearly 15 families work as haali in the village,” he said—not for money, but foodgrains.

“There is a person who I know named Sula Ram,” Vinod said. “He used to plough a field belonging to some Rajpurohits. He was removed from his job after Jitender’s death. He had nothing to eat as he was a daily wage labourer, so he had to sell his ox. There are many other such examples.”

As part of the backlash, the Rajpurohits have recently halted the extension of a small temple that the Meghwals use for worship. I was told that Rajpurohits damaged the extended portion of the temple as it was being built. When I visited the spot, I saw that the existing temple was a mere room. I also noticed the brick foundation of what looked like a larger structure, and stacks of bricks lying idle nearby.

No Outsiders Allowed


he Rajpurohits of Barwa strove to appear non-committal on the subject when I interviewed them. Korka Mangilal Rajpurohit, an ex-sarpanch of Barwa, told me that one of the causes of the Jitender-Suraj rivalry was that Jitender had made a video in which Suraj’s father appeared to bow down to Jitender and his family. “He sent the video to Suraj saying ‘See how your father bows down to us,’” Mangilal said. “But I cannot verify this information, because I only heard about it.”

“We came to know about it after Suraj killed Jitender,” he continued. “For us, both are children, and both are equal. Rajpurohits and Meghwals have always lived like brothers in Barwa. But after the incident, we are separated. Now, we don’t talk to them nor they to us.”

It was young people in the Rajpurohit community who supported Suraj, he said. “No one in the elderly supports what Suraj did. No intelligent person is supporting him.” The ideology of the younger generation was different nowadays, he lamented. “We are getting tortured,” he said. “They”—Barwa’s Meghwals—“don’t even come to work in our fields now.”

“We asked the police not to permit the entry of outsiders into the village. If one comes, others will follow. It’s an insult to the village, and to Rajpurohits.”

Korka Mangilal Rajpurohit

But his answers also took a defensive turn. When I asked him about the rally in support of Suraj and Ramesh on 30 March, Mangilal claimed that it was organised by the Rajpurohits of a different city, Sumerpur; the Barwa Rajpurohits just happened to join the march.

He made his sympathies clear. “The programme was in support of Suraj, we had to do it,” Mangilal said. “Look at how the Meghwals supported Jitender by calling Chandrashekhar Azad. So we also stood by Suraj. We asked the police not to permit the entry of outsiders into the village. If one comes, others will follow. It’s an insult to the village, and to Rajpurohits.”

The de facto ban on outsiders was not a hollow threat, as I found it for myself. On a street in Bali town, a Tata Safari pulled up next to me. A man who appeared to be in his forties was in the passenger seat. I noticed a pistol on the dashboard of the car, and a rifle on the backseat. The man asked if I’d been to Barwa. I said I had. He told me: “Go back to where you came from, no need to stay here any longer.”

The head of the Barwa village panchayat, Indu Rajpurohit, is a woman. But, as is common practice in villages across the state, the work is handled by her husband Chandan Singh Rajpurohit. “What should I say if Rajpurohits are not behaving well with Meghwals or vice-versa?” Chandan said, “I cannot show partiality. I have to listen to both of them. I’m helpless in the current situation. If anyone is feeling insecure, they should go to the police.”

When I visited in June, the situation had become so tense that the police had to build a temporary outpost in Barwa. “However, there have been no big incidents after Jitender’s death,” Devender Singh said, “Everything is silent.”

I asked Surender Singh Barwa, vice-president of the state chapter of the Nationalist Congress Party and a Rajpurohit, for his views on the incident. “The killing is wrong, we don’t support it,” he said, “But the Meghwals presented the whole of the Rajpurohit clan in a bad way and insulted us. So we took out a rally on 30 March to show that all Rajpurohits are not wrong. Some might consider Suraj a hero, but that is their own outlook.”

From Vinod, I heard that some Rajpurohits are now collecting money from the community to fund Suraj’s legal defence. This was confirmed by Chandan Singh. “The villagers are collecting money for Suraj’s legal defence,” he said. “However, I am not a part of it. The villagers also boycotted me for standing by Jitender, and calling things out as they are.”


efore Inder Meghwal’s death on 13 August, two killings in Rajasthan made national news this summer. Both were reportedly communal killings. In Bhilwara, a 22-year-old Dalit man called Adarsh Tapadia was murdered in May. In June, Kanhaiya Lal Sahu, a 48-year-old tailor, was murdered by two Muslims for a Facebook post expressing support for BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma’s insults to the Prophet Muhammad on a news talk show.

The Rajasthan government awarded a compensation of ₹20 lakh to Tapadia’s relatives, and ₹50 lakh for Sahu’s survivors. Sahu’s two sons were given government jobs.

Bhanwar Meghwanshi, the social activist, questioned why Jitender’s family had been given only ₹5 lakh in compensation. “Appropriate relief should be given to the victims,” he said, “but discrimination between those killed by religious terrorists and those killed by casteists is not right.”

“Now questions are being raised as to why Tapadia received only 20 lakh and Jitender only 5 lakh. Because they were Dalits? Why is one killing worth 50 lakh, the other 20 lakh and the third just 5 lakh?”

Kapil Kajal is an India-based freelance journalist who covers grassroots stories that have a social impact. When he is not pursuing unexplored story angles and writing long-form stories, he enjoys working on documentary films.