By Vidya Bhushan Rawat
Pratapgarh district of Uttar-Pradesh is basically known for the notoriety of Raja Bhaiya and his supporters. In her last avatar as chief minister of Uttar-Pradesh, Mayawati put Raja of Kunda under the Prevention of Terrorists and Atrocities Act (POTA), which was later withdrawn by Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav who made Raja Bhaiya as a great Thakur icon of Uttar-Pradesh. However, caste politics and violence in Uttar-Pradesh these days are being played at a different way. With growing Brahmin clout, the upper castes are using the micro caste identities to serve their own interest. Caste games in Uttar-Pradesh have become so powerful that the Dalits are at the receiving end. It is not because of Mayawati or BSP’s government that things are happening. The fact of the matter is that we expect two much from this system which has betrayed the rural poor and used their identities for their own purposes. Caste segregation is actually unable to digest the idea of pluralism and putting them easily in the hands of those who we can simply call middlemen. That is why despite Dalits being assertive vis a vis other communities remain helpless in front of their own leadership. The case of the brutal murder of Chakrasen was an eye opener how our state function and how those upper caste leaders who have joined BSP have not shed their caste identities and prejudices.
When the issue of serving their caste interest comes, they prefer their caste and not the ideology of their party. And why should they leave their caste identities when it is benefiting a few while exploiting the others. So far Chakrasen’s murder mystery remain unresolved in the police and administrative textbooks but his family and the villagers continue to receive threatening messages from the powerful Brahmins of Udaiyadih.
How a bright scholar student was termed as thief
Chakrasen, 22, belonging to Chamar community of Dalits, was selected for B.Tech courses in Moti Lal Nehru Regional Engineering College (MLNR), Allahabad. Eldest among his other brothers, Chakrasen’s family was virtually landless. His father Babban died of illness in 1992. The three brothers, Chakrsen, Agnisen (pursuing B.Sc) and Shaktisen (pursing High School) became the responsibility of their grandfather Shiv Murthi alias Sadal who retired from a factory in Kanpur 1999. The saved money helped him to educate all the three brothers who were his life. Shiv Murthi did not have any one in the family and hence his life revolved around his grand children. After retirement the family shifted to this village of Udaihdih in Patti block of Pratapgarh district. This village is about 6 kilometer away from Prithviganj town. Sadal runs a Public Distribution Shop in his house, which according to villagers were given to him because of the failure of Santosh Mishra, a Brahmin. Since then the Mishras were particularly upset with the family and were regularly threatening them of dire consequences. According to Sadal, quota was not the main issue as they themselves left it and on the request of the villagers, Sadal was given the shop. The fact as Sadal suggest is that they wanted their share of 50-kilogram rice every month from the quota shop for free. Since Sadal, an honest man, refused to do it, they started humiliating him and planned to eliminate him. A proud grand father was running the Public Distribution Shop without any fear but there were problems being created by the Brahmins. Chakrsen was aware of it and was helping his grandfather to continue with this. He would help his grandfather, whenever, he was in town. Chakrasen was a better student who could understand and speak English. His sincerity and honesty was never in doubt. In fact a few of his upper caste friends who do not want to concede this fact in open now, actually admitted the fact that this entire case of his being a thief is fabricated.
According to Sadal, in the night of July 31st-August 1st, some of the villagers came to their house at Bhadervah village and asked Chakrsen to accompany them. He went along with them and never returned. Later in the morning, a local vender of newspaper informed the family about Chakrasen being caught at Sudemahu village, about two kilometers away from Bhadrewah village. Sadal and younger brother Shaktisen went to find out about Chakrasen to Sudemahu’s Pasi tola. They were horrified to find that Chakrsen was tied in a thick rope and was being dragged and beaten up by the people. He was simply lying on the ground. There were no cloths at his body, not even his underwear. As Sadal reached near his grandson he named several people who were responsible for this act. They were Santosh Mishra and Akash Dubey. As he was naming people, they were threatened. In fact some of them tried to kill Shaktisen also since he was standing near his brother. They were asked to leave the place. Village Pradhan Raj Mani Vishwkarma informed the police officer Babuchand at 4.30 in the morning but none of them reached the place. A local police constable Pradeep Mishra, who the villagers charge used to stay with the accused and was posted here, too was informed but he too did not turn up. The police became active only once it came to know around 6.15 in the morning that Chakrasen was dead.
Yet, nothing factually happened. There was a check post outside the village, on the road and the policemen would never think of interacting with the Dalit families. Frustrated on the administration’s continuous chanting of Chakrasen as being a thief, the villagers of Bhadervah hoisted black flag on August 15th. ‘What is this freedom’, said a misty eyes Sadal, terming lack of police action and continuous threat to his family. ‘ I am more worried about my two other grandsons. We live in fear and can not go out and the government is doing nothing. The administration sits silently blaming my son as a thief. It is shocking that the accused are roaming free while we are living on constant fear’, said Sadal.
One day before our visit on 16th of September, the Brahmins united again the came to threaten the Dalit families to remain in their limit otherwise they would meet with the same fate as Chakrasen. His younger brother Agnisen is a terrified man today and even refusing to meet us. ‘ People come and go but our condition is worsening. The Brahmins are threatening us daily and police is not taking any action. Today, they came and see the irony; the police have arrested some of our people. Sadal is worried about the safety of his grand children. The police check post is on the road and they have good relations with the Brahmins. The state government seems to be unaware of the fact as the local police are still working on the theme of theft.
Story at Sudemahu Pasi Tola
Sudemahu is nearly two kilometer from the house of Chakrasen in village Bhaderva. We went straight to Pasi families in front of whose house Chakrasen was caught and killed. Two women Gujarati and Rajkumari were standing in front of their house. We informed them our motives to them and asked them as what had happened that night of August 1st.
Rajkumari accused that Chakrasen tried to snatch her earring in the night around 2 am. It rained heavily that night and there was water clogging around the locality. Chakrasen was not wearing anything, his underwear was worn over his head as he approached her and tried to drag her when she made a noise. Amidst all this chaos her husband Babu Chand got up and ran to catch the thief. Chakrasen stumbled after a while and fell on the ground only to be caught by Babu Chand and others.
According to Rajkumari, Chakrasen was a thief and has attacked at least 8 villages that night before finally coming to her village. A mobile was also recovered from him. He was a ‘dirty man’ she said. He came with bad intention was the reference made by the two women. Soon, the entire area had got wind of the incident and people started coming in and he was tied in a rope. ‘ We requested people not to beat him but they did not leave him. Every one was beating him mercilessly. Things were not in our hand’. The rope in which Charasen was allegedly tied has not been taken as an important witness material by the police and it was lying in their house. When we insisted that the family of Chakrasen is not blaming the Pasis for the murder but to the Brahmins, the two women were very clear. It were not the Brahmins who killed him, they said. It was the general public who killed him. But did he come to steal something from their home? Why would he come to steal from your house? What was there to steal? Why in the mid night when every body else remain in the home. Why would any body go to steal something without wearing anything? Nobody is killed such merciless way for stealing things?
The Medical Report
When the news of lynching of Chakrsen reached the Dalit village of Udaiyadih and Bhaderva, people came out in large number. The police officers tried to calm them down but the villagers knew that the police have already been supportive of the murderers. The BSP MLA, a Brahmin called Rama Shiromani Shukla was of no help to the people. As the news of Dalit protest traveled across the districts and people sat on the street with the dead body of Chakrasen, determined to take the body to Lucknow for medical check up, the administration swung into action. ‘They wanted to force us dispose off the body, said Sadal. We have not cremated him but buried him so that in case the police need any further investigations, the body would be made available, as we want the culprits to be hanged, said Sadal, whose misty eyes along with that of his daughter in laws cries make every one in the village cry for justice. It is a shame that a bright student was ‘made’ thief and murdered in a public view and the police have not been able to do justice.
The dead body was taken for postmortem to district hospital. Post mortem was conducted at 3.50 pm on August 1st, 2008 which says ‘, eyes closed swelling present surrounding both eyes. Cause of death due to strangulation, wrote Dr Santosh Tripathi. It means that the report and rumors spread by the upper castes and the administration that Chakrasen died of mob lynching are not true. Of course, he was beaten mercilessly but the fact that the post mortem report suggest death due strangulation is a matter which police must look into and investigate.
The two accused were roaming free. Santosh Mishra and Akash Dubey and their well-wishers including the BSP's Brahmin MLA had the power to deny people a right to even the protest.
Local opinion about Chakrasen comes according to their castes
While all the villagers of Udaihadih blamed the Brahmins for the murder of Chakrasen and felt threatened now, as police remain mute, the women and young people we spoke in Sudemahu openly said that Chakrasen was a thief. The women did not have a high opinion of him. Similarly, speaking to journalists, pradhans and other upper castes, it looks they share the same opinion of his being a thief. Some people indicated another angle to it, which was ‘love affair’. There were two girls in the Pasi family who Chakrasen knew’ said a local Brahmin. ‘ How can anybody would tolerate a person eyeing to one’s mothers and sisters, indicating that there might have been an affair for which Chakrasen was punished so mercilessly. As we came out of the Pasi bastee, I asked this question to many youngsters of the village, tell me was he a thief? The village boys had dubious answers but one man who brought tears in our eyes was Chhote Lal Yadav, a former village Pradhan of the area. I simply asked him, please tell me about this boy Chakrasen? Chotte Lal Yadav had nothing to do with the boy. He did not even know and at the time when the social relations of Chamars and Yadavas remain at the lowest, Chhote Lal Yadav’s word have soothing affect. Tears rolled from his eyes when he said
‘this boy can not be a thief. He can not be a thief.’ He was murdered though he said that he came to know about the incident pretty late. It is these kinds of voices that give us hope in the otherwise caste republics of Uttar-Pradesh, which has virtually forgotten to appreciate your honesty and innocence if you do not belong to similar caste groups.
Administrative goof ups
Police are still investigating the case as if Chakrasen was a thief. There are certain very disturbing questions which the police need to answer and respond. Why has it not taken into the custody, the rope in which Chakrasen was tied? It is still lying at the house of the Pasis. Secondly, whether it was an act of theft or love affair, what gives people moral authority to kill a person of another village? Why police did not act when it was reported to them as early as 4 am in the morning. What was the conspiracy when the local police constable Mishra who knew this but did not followed it up? What is the conspiracy as Chakrasen’s family and others in the village openly and with confident charge the Brahmins (Mishras) for the murder of Chakrasen while the Pasi women deny their hand. Will police check this relationship between the various accused. One of the accused was absconding at the house of BSP MLA Rama Shiromani Shukla when the police arrested him from Shukla’s house, informed Shaktisen. The Dalits have no faith in him. It was shocking how this MLA went to Dalit bastee when the people were adamant on taking the dead body of Chakrasen to Lucknow, placed Rs five hundred ( Rs 500/-) on the dead body asking the people to close the case as it would not help them and that the law would take its own course. What course the law is taking Mr Shukla? Sadal and his grand children Shaktisen and Aginsen are now being threatened by the Brahmins. They came attacking in the village and the police did nothing. Instead, the police arrested some of the villagers. Shakti Sen informs how he is continuously under the threat in the school he goes where the children of Mishra also study. These children threaten him with the same consequences as his brother.
There are various points for police to not only understand but also investigate and the most important should be who killed Chakrasen. The police can not keep hiding under the pretext of mob violence when Chakrasen was grandson of a PDS shop owner in a village, which was just 2 kilometer away. We all know how the relations in the villages are and that it would be highly unlikely if people do not know to a person who was living with in two kilometer.
Secondly, Chakrasen was not dead when his grand father and brother met him. He was allowed to die in four hours period when the police failed to intervene. Whether it was deliberate need to be investigated.
Third, the police theory of Chakrasen being a thief is absolutely fabricated and false. Was Chakrasen a proclaimed thief? Was there any record of crime in his name? He was student of Allahabad University and was there any bad entry of him in the University? What would a boy from a city university go to steal from the families of virtually landless people, in this case, the Pasis ?
Fourth point, does any one come in the village in the midnight with out wearing underwear or why would any thief wear underwear over his head as being suggested by the Pasi women? If he had bad intentions (which was actually the intention of the woman we interviewed) than why he came in mid night? Was he caught with some one else?
Fifth point, it might be the possibility that the Brahmins caught hold of him outside his village in the night thrashed him, forced him to run and take shelter in the village of Pasis. He might have entered the village to save his humiliation when he was caught as a ‘thief’. There are many things which each of the villagers are hiding. Police need to investigate this relationship between different accused. The two which it has arrested from the pasi families and the two Brahmin accused which Chakrasen’s family is accusing openly.
Sixth, Investigate the entire issue as why the threats are continuously being made to Shaktisen and others? Why the Brahmin goons came and attack the village of the Dalits on 15th September in the broad day light.
Seventh, that Chakrasen did not died of mob lynching but because of strangulation as per medical report. Did police lift the fingerprints of the accused?
Eighth, how many accused have been arrested so far? What is done to save the family of Sadal.
Conclusions: It seems that Chakrsen was murdered in a very calculated way. If the Brahmins are directly involved then they would face SC-ST atrocities act but if they are in the back, it make things easier for them to push one dalit community against the other. So Pasis and Chamars are at the loggerhead and the Brahmins are enjoying their meal. By getting the Pasis into the act and making it a case of theft or love affair, the villagers are still ignoring the thing as who killed Chakrasen. This is the crude reality of the Indian village system that while every witness to all the gory act of butchering of an innocent boy, none of them dare to come forward. By taking a moral high ground on the issue of relationship, these villagers forget that they have violated law of the land. One thing is clear, he was murdered and police did not act. Another thing is certain that he was the first year student of B.Tech and no doubt a bright young boy. Third thing was also clear that he and his siblings are educated and their grandfather is running a PDS shop successfully which the local Brahmins could not.
The government of Uttar-Pradesh must hand over this case to Central Bureau of Investigation and suspend the police officers for dereliction of duty which allowed the murder of a young boy. Uttar-Pradesh government has given Rs 70,000/- to the grieving family of Chakrasen. It is equally shameful for the government authorities to measure the life of a bright young student in such a meager amount. The police are trying to shelter the criminals as one of the accused was actually arrested from the house of local BSP MLA, the family alleged. The role of police, the political leader must be investigated. The mystery of this killing can easily be unearthed by the police if it works impartially. At the moment, the impartiality of the Uttar-Pradesh police is in question. They are working ‘unbiased’ as with each accused i.e. Brahmin arrest, they are equally arresting the Dalits also. Already, poor Pasis are arrested as accused while the Mishras and Dubeys are roaming free, threatening the family of Shiv Murthy. In the 75th year of Poona Pact, we remember Baba Saheb’s warning of what kind of leadership will we elect on the upper caste Hindu votes. UP’s case is an eye opener. BSP can not shed its ideology for the sake of ‘Sarva Samaj’. UP need a Bahujan Samaj government which can protect them and honour constitutional provisions, promulgate SC-ST act in the cases of violence against Dalits. Sarvjan Samaj can not be bigger than the Bahujan Samaj. One hope the government will act and save the people from further frustration.