Skip to main content

Police 'fail to see' caste-based crime in murder of a Dalit of UP's Mushahar community

Banarasi's wife and son 
By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*
On May 24 morning, when villagers were went to the field to defecate in the open, they were shocked to see two bodies on the road. It was a brutal murder. The head of the one of them was severed from the body. The other man was lying unconscious on the other side of the road. There were some hockey sticks lying on the ground.
People immediately rushed to the home of the person who was brutally murdered, Banarasi Mushahar. Sunil, Banarasi’s son, and other family members rushed to the spot. They were crying and weeping. The village sarpanch had already informed the police, which came from the local police chowki of Narayanpur. Mushahars are a tribal-turned-Dalit community found in the eastern Gangetic plain and the Terai.
The police arrived at around 9 am and did panchnama of the body and took it for post-mortem, while the other man, Ram Preet, was sent to the District Hospital in Padrauna for treatment. His condition was serious. He was arrested as accused after the hospital released him. Padrauna is a city and district headquarter of Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh. Its ancient name was Pava, where Lord Buddha is known to have taken his last meal.
The police officers came to the “conclusion” that Ram Preet, also belonging to the Mushahar community, and his friend Banarasi had drunk tadee (traditional toady) and got into fight on a certain issue, ending up in a fight, wounding each other. The fight turned violent. Banarasi got killed, while Ram Preet was injured, hence was taken to the hospital.
Banarasi’s job was to guard the 10 bigha agricultural land of a local businessman Ram Kumar Jaiswal – something he was doing for the last seven years. He had entered into a seermani agreement with Jaiswal. Seermai is an unwritten arrangement in which, in lieu of guarding an agricultural lot, the owner, or the zamindar, would hand over a small portion of land to do farming to earn a livelihood. In lieu of seermai, Banarasi was given one bigha land.
All that is known about what preceded before the tragedy is, on May 23, Bansidhar and his friend Ram Preet, after picking up their dinner bundles from their home, had gone to guard Jaiswal’s field. The villagers recalled, a group close to village Pradhan Keshav Yadav next to Jaiswal’s land, was tilling land with tractor, even as loudly playing music and DJ. Those who were running the tractor belonged belonged to the same village Koilaswa – which became famous in the early years of this century, for hunger deaths and brain fever, termed termed as Japanese encephalitis.
Talking with me, Banarasi’s wife, Raj Mati Devi accused the police of not being fair in the case. She said that the police reached the “conclusion” in this case on the basis of a ‘story’ cooked up by the village chief Keshav Yadav, ignoring family members of Banarasi and Ram Preet. The police did not bother to find out as to why Banarasi became a victim.
Banarasi's hut
Banarasi was a respected person of the Mushahar community. Earlier, he used to run the village ration shop. Mushahars are known to face deep contempt from the so-called dominant caste forces, who have always wanted to use them as slave labourers. A Mushahar running a public distribution system (PDS) shop was unacceptable to the powerful dominant castes in the village.
Yet Banarasi ran it for seven years, till one day Keshav Yadav, who was not the pradhan then but just a panchayat member, lodged complaint against him in the district alleging ‘corruption’. The shop was looted in broad daylight. Nobody helped Banarasi. He was dejected but wanted to come out clean. He was doing everything to fight the case.
Banarasi put a small piece of land, owned by him, on ‘rehan’, a local barter system, in which you give part of your land for cash, and once you return the cash, land comes back to you. He failed get back the ration shop, which went to a person belonging to a person belonging to the dominant upper caste Yadav community.
Banarasi knew it well that being Mushahar his journey was tough and people would not accept him. Mushahars are supposed to be just labourers. Having failed to get back the PDS shop, Baranasi decided to do do seermai agreement for Raj Kumar Jaiswal’s agricultural land. He worked hard on the plot of land given to him, cultivating crops and planting trees to earn a livelihood.
Rajmati Devi complained, immediately after the murder of her husband, the landowner Jaiswal refused to help the family. He did not pay anything. The family does not have access the land Banarasi was guarding any more, or to the one bigha land which he was cultivating.
Banarasi’s son Sunil said, his father, though older than Ram Preet, was much stronger in physique and it was unlikely that Ram Preet would kill him. He wondered, how was it that his father’s body was found on the road near the school, while Ram Preet was lying badly injured in a different direction across the road. 
Sunil said, there were hockey sticks on the road, wondering who had brought these, as neither of them had then when they left their home. If these two had fought, those tilling the nearby field till late at night would have heard some noise, and would have intervened. But this did not happen. The police was uncooperative and did not visit the Mushahar basti, nor did it meet anyone of them to hear their grievances. 
Sunil said, if they had fought, why wouldn’t have reached the public road to kill each other when they were drinking at a ‘secure’ place on Jaiswal’s plot, which Banarasi was taking care of. He believed, it was a conspiracy to kill Banarasi, and the conspirators had not been identified.
Meanwhile, Banarasi’s family tried to meet local officials and politicians, but they were told that due to corona restrictions, this not possible. The local police chowki person sent them to the main police thana, but this did not help. Reaching Padrauna, the district headquarters, was simply unaffordable. Meanwhile, Ram Preet is in the jail. His family said that he must be given an opportunity to speak in the court and tell the truth. No chargesheet has been filed. They don’t know what is happening.
The two Mushahar families are in bad shape. They don’t have any land. The big landowners don’t give them work, so life has become even more difficult. The police needs to investigate the case properly, speak to the respective families and take their grievance seriously.
Indeed, Banarasi’s murder does not seem to be as simple as it is tried to be made out. It is seems to be clear case of caste crime, yet the Mushahar community is being intimidated so that it continues to live in permanent fear and does not ask any questions. Indeed, the real culprits should be arrested under the scheduled caste-scheduled tribe prevention of atrocities Act.
---
*Human rights defender

Comments

TRENDING

'Halt Covid-19 vaccination drive': Indian doctors join campaign across 36 nations

By Rosamma Thomas*  A group of Spanish doctors first got together to call for a halt to the Covid-19 vaccinations, and doctors from other countries too later joined them – there are now over 12,000 doctors from India, Portugal, Canada, Hungary, South Africa, Israel and a host of other nations who have issued a call to halt vaccinations. On September 10, a group of Indian doctors came together to address the press over a webinar to explain why they thought the vaccination drive should end forthwith. Dr Amitav Banerjee, who after a career as an epidemiologist in the Indian Army now teaches at a private medical college in Pune, said there was no longer a medical emergency. Children are at low risk of infection, and there is good reason to halt vaccination and conduct proper research, given the high number of adverse events. There is a sudden and poorly explained spike in the number of young and healthy people dying. While it may be impossible to attribute deaths entirely to the vaccinatio

Did Mother Teresa trivialise poverty? 'You are suffering, that means Jesus is kissing you'

By Harsh Thakor*  The world commemorated the 25th death anniversary of Mother Teresa on September 5. Whatever her flaws, she rendered service to humanity in regions almost untranscended, resembling the relentless spirit of the waves of an ocean. Irrespective of community or religion, she offered her service. Even those not drawn by sainthood revere the role of Mother Teresa. For 68 years, she had worked selflessly and tirelessly in India and elsewhere in the world, taught the destitute, healed the sick, fed and clothed the poor, cared for abandoned children, housed lepers and those afflicted with HIV/AIDS and offered dignity in death to desolate persons abandoned by family and society. Mother Teresa was born in Skopje in 1910 to an Albanian family as AnjezĂ« Gonxhe Bojaxhiu. She became wedded to religious vows at an early age and moved to India to join the missionary work of the Catholic Church. Heartshaken by the misery faced by the Indian masses, in 1950 she set up her own

Tracing roots of Hindutva Zionism: cannon fodder for 'warped' nationalist pretensions

By Shamsul Islam*  Those who believe in a world free of hegemonic ethno-nationalism, racism, religious bigotry and hatred have rightly taken note of Zionism and its ally Christian Zionism, major perpetrators of ethnic cleansing of ‘Others’. However, the civilized world with its core belief in multi-culturalism and peaceful co-existence is oblivious to a no less dangerous threat to the present human civilization: the Hindutva Zionism. As the term reads it is part of the Hindutva world-view which stands for an exclusive Hindu India minus Muslims and Christians. The other religions like Sikhism, Buddhism, and Jainism will have no independent status but treated as part of Hinduism. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS; National Volunteer Organization) is the most prominent flag-bearer of the Hindutva politics whose cadres presently rule India, the largest democracy in the world. RSS was founded by Keshav Baliram Hedgewar (1889-1940) in 1925 who was disillusioned with the Indian freedom st

Regional parties, anti-Congress progressives, civil society groups 'joining' Bharat Jodo

By Harshavardhan Purandare, Sandeep Pandey*  The Congress party declared Bharat Chhodo (Quit India) movement against the British regime in 1942. The Congress party has now launched a movement Bharat Jodo (Connecting and Uniting India) against the Modi regime in 2022. Indian people have had a journey of 80 years since Mahatma Gandhi gave that Quit India call to the British and we have to agree that we stand most divided in our modern history when Rahul Gandhi is giving this Bharat Jodo call to the nation. And back then, Congress was a thriving idealistic political movement against the British rulers and now it is an ever weakening political organization electorally defeated several times. However, it is India at stake, not just the Congress party. That is why so many regional political parties, civil society organizations, traditional anti-Congress progressive forces like socialists and communists, intellectuals and civil servants have declared their support and are proactively partici

Shocking? No Covid vaccine trials conducted on pregnant, lactating women: RTI reply

By Rosamma Thomas*  A Right to Information applicant who sought details of safety trials conducted in India on pregnant and lactating women for three Covid vaccines in use in India – Covishield, Covaxin and ZyCov-D -- was shocked to learn from the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) that Serum Institute, manufacturer of Covishield, and Cadila Healthcare, manufacturer of the ZyCov-D vaccine, had not sought permission for such trials.  Bharat Biotech, manufacturer of Covaxin, had sought permission for trial on pregnant women and later withdrawn its application. This response , provided after the applicant was initially unsatisfied with the response and went in appeal, is from the joint drugs controller, CDSCO. It was dated September 13, 2022. One researcher closely following the vaccine rollout, however, is of the opinion that the lack of a trial on pregnant and lactating women is a blessing; potential trial participants and their unborn babies thus escaped harm. Aruna Ro

Grave error? Scholar blames ex-Gujarat babu for anti-Christian riots 'citing fake report'

By Rajiv Shah  A few days back, I received a message from one of the finest former Gujarat government bureaucrats, PG Ramrakhiani, a 1964 batch IAS official, who retired in November 2000. I would often interact with him in 1997-99, even later, after I was sent to Gandhinagar as a Times of India man to cover Sachivalaya. Those were turbulent times. Shankarsinh Vaghela was the Gujarat chief minister, under attack from two sides – from the BJP, which he had left to form a separate breakaway party, Rashtriya Janata Party (RJP), one one hand, and the Congress, which was supporting him from outside, on the other. Ramrakhiani, in his message, referred to the book authored by Ghanshyam Shah and Jan Breman, both top-notch scholars who have known Gujarat in and out. Called “Gujarat, Cradle and Harbinger of Identity Politics: India’s Injurious Frame of Communalism”, I reviewed the book in January 2022.  It claims that Muslims in Gujarat have been turned into “new untouchables”, thanks to the Hin

Excess to cheetah in Kuno to increase 'woes' of local people, 'disturb' wildlife balance

Bharat Dogra*  The release of eight cheetahs into the Kuno National Park ( Madhya Pradesh) by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 17, although accompanied by a media blitz, has raised several questions. The animals were flown from Namibia to Gwalior and from there they were taken to the release site in a helicopter. Official sources have stated that this is the first time a large carnivorous species has been moved across continents for establishing a new population. This first release will be followed by others under this project. However, precisely for this reason, it is important to be cautious because if such translocations have been generally avoided in the past, there may have been reasons for this and at the same time we do not have much learning experiences from the past. The Cheetah became extinct in India in 1952, although this very fast moving animal is still remembered in the folklore of many areas. Hence the first impulse is to say that trying to introduce and revive

Introducing non-native cheetahs is 'not equivalent' to restoring pride in the nation

By Bappaditya Mukhopadhyay*  The Cheetahs from the African continent has finally been introduced to India by the Indian Prime Minister on his 72nd birthday. The process had started with the previous Government in 2009. However, the Supreme Court clearance was pending owing to the objection by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) plea to reintroduce cheetahs. Finally the clearance was obtained in January 2020 and thereafter Kuno National Park (KNP) was chosen for the reintroduction of first set of Southeast African Cheetahs. In the near future, depending upon the success story of the current reintroduction, more cheetahs from South Africa may also be introduced. This exercise has generated a lot of interest among various stakeholders with opinions on both sides galore. It is important to pose some questions that surround the whole exercise. Let us evaluate some of these arguments. The first set of arguments are quite detached from the issues of conservation as they most

'Military diplomacy': US praises Bangladesh Army for leadership role in UN operations

By Kamal Uddin Mazumder* As the Indo-Pacific region represents the world’s economic and strategic center of gravity, the Indian Ocean today is becoming the centerpiece of all geo-strategic play. Cooperation in the region is crucial to implementing the international community’s global agenda, including achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Major powers like the US have enhanced and deepened their strategic engagement and leadership roles with countries in the region. The Indo-Pacific Army Management Seminar, or IPAMS, is a U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC) initiated conference that is aimed at facilitating and enhancing interactions among the armies of the Indo-Pacific region. This year's 46th Indo-Pacific Armies Management Seminar (IPAMS)-2022, co-hosted by the Bangladesh Army and US Army Pacific (USARPAC), concluded in Dhaka. The objective of IPAMS is to promote peace and stability in the region through mutual understanding, dialogue, and friendship. It is the largest confer

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".