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‘What is happening in the country’, an upset Supreme Court remarked Tuesday when told of how people belonging to the Valmiki community of Mirchpur village in Haryana’s Hissar district were deserting their village due to threats from those accused in an arson attack on the community in April.

Witness after witness in the case of arson attack on the Valmiki community by upper castes were turning hostile under threats of the accused people and their supporters, senior counsel Colin Gonsalves told the Supreme Court.

He told the court that except for 35 families, mostly comprising the elderly, left in the village, the rest of the Valmikis have already left the village and their children have dropped out of schools.

People of dominant caste in other villages were being pressured not to employ family members of the victims, he informed the apex court bench of Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice A.K. Ganguly.

On April 21, people from the dominant caste in Mirchpur village attacked and burnt the houses of those belonging to the Valmiki community. A 70-year-old man, Tara Chand, and his disabled daughter Suman were burnt alive.

This led to the exodus of the Valmikis from the village to different parts of the state and the national capital.

Gonsalves referred to the affidavits filed by two advocates narrating the scene outside the trial court where people belonging to the dominant caste were coercing the witnesses to go back on their statements given to police.

Hearing his submission, an angry Supreme Court bench remarked: ‘One by one the layers of the constitution were being torn… what is happening in the country.’

When senior counsel P. Mishra, appearing for Haryana, described the situation as ‘very unfortunate’, the court said: ‘It is very easy to say in the air conditioned rooms that it is very unfortunate.’

Saying that it was not ‘casting aspersions’ on the dominant caste, the court asked the senior counsel: ‘Why don’t you acquit all the accused?’

In an obvious reference to the way people from the dominant caste were using their clout in derailing the judicial process, the court said: ‘We have seen the judicial system crumbling during terrorism.’

The apex court sought a report from the trial court in Hissar district on alleged threats to witnesses to turn hostile.

The apex court directed the court registry to send the copy its order and that of the affidavits of two advocates to the trial court judge. It gave the trial court judge seven days time to submit its reply and listed the case for further hearing next Wednesday.

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