PUCL Bulletin, December 2002

Police atrocities on Dalits and Adivasis in Varanasi and neighbourhood areas In U.P.

-- A summary by Neelofar Haram

Click here for the full report

Click here for the interim report, June 2002

June 2002
The Indian People's Tribunal on Environment and Human Rights panel headed by Justice K Sukumaran (Retired Judge, Kerala and Mumbai High Courts) accompanied by Dr. Kusum Singh (Professor in Gandhian Studies, Media and Social Change), Deepika D'Souza (Co-convenor of the IPT), Sunil Scaria & Devlyn Newnes (Joint Coordinators of the IPT) visited Varanasi & Chandoli districts between February 16 - 17, 2002. They visited the villages of Narketi, Babatpur and Belwa. On February 17, 2002 a public hearing was held in Varanasi at which people from Piyari Gaon deposed.

17 February 2002
The team began their inquiry at the Badepur area of Belwa village. The team spent about two hours in recording the statements of the people. After the inquiry at Belwa, the team visited the residence of Sashikant Pandey, the president of the Sanyukta Kisan Sangharsh Samiti (SKSS) at Babatpur. Some women gave their statements to the panel about the happenings on the 21st of May 2001. The persons who were shot showed the scars of their wounds to the team. Then the team left for Varanasi.

At 3:00 p.m. Justice K. Sukumaran met with the press. After the press-meet there was a public meeting held at Gandhi Vidyapeet Bhawan, which commenced at 4:00 p.m. The Public hearing was attended by people from the villages of Narketi, Belwa, Babatpur, and Piyari. Depositions were made before the tribunal by people from these villages as well as by Vijay Kumar Jaiswal and Mukundi Lal.

NARKETI
Socio-Economic Condition of Narketi
Narketi is located in Eastern Uttar Pradesh surrounded by hilly dense forest. A majority of people here are Adivasis and backward castes like Kols, Manji, Chamar, Mushar and Kalvaar. The people are engaged in collection of tendu patta (leaves used for the making of bidi or indigenous cigarettes) honey, dry twigs and herbs, to make the two ends meet. Some families have small land holdings where they grow mostly paddy, and at times grow vegetables.

Dependence on seasonal work, landlessness, and lack of education have plunged these villagers into poverty. Such that often during summer and monsoon they do not have enough to feed their families. For example, in Sonebhadra region in the Babhani Development Block in the villages of Randah, Hathiyaar, Chapki, Jiganva, Kuba, Pokhra, Chaina, Machbandva and Asandih during March and April, the calorie intake is 2400, but between July and September it comes down to 1500 calories (Survey by PVCHR, 1998).

According to this survey, in recent years, a massive exploitation of forest wealth has taken place. Forest trees, sand from the banks of the river Son and stone from the surrounding hills are being removed. Illegal felling of trees has increased tremendously since 1980. For example, in the Naugadh region, the forest had decreased from 45% to 40% between 1960 to 2001. Illegal mining of sand from the banks of the River Son has resulted in the lowering of the ground water level and cracks in the upper layer of the ground. Further, stones are cut from the surrounding hills which are used for making stone slabs, or are crushed into small stones or gitty which are used in making roads.

According to the people, a mafia gang of contractors with political backing and the support of corrupt officials are responsible for carrying out these illegal activities. It is alleged that the chiefs of this gang include Brijesh Singh and politicians like Hari Shankar Tiwari. in order to facilitate their illegal activities, Section 20 of the Indian Forest Act has been declared notifying the It is also alleged that area as a Reserved Forest. This prevents the tribals from the freedom of collecting from the forests, food and other non-timber items on which they are dependent for their livelihood. This has given the local officials and forest guards an opportunity to exploit and harass the people. Corruption among Government officials and employees is well known, but in these remote areas far from the scrutiny of city-based media and human rights organisations, exploitation of any sort goes unnoticed and the cries of the poor and the marginalised remain unheard.

It is this exploitation and the absence of law and justice that brought about the so-called "naxalite menace." The governmental administration uses the excuse of curbing the naxal menace to unleash a reign of terror and violate basic human rights like the freedom of expression and the freedom of association of these people. The cause of the people was taken up by the Left parties and by a people's organisation called the Mazdoor Kisan Morcha & Voice of Partners (VOP). Between 1980 and 1990 the CPI (Communist Party of India) and the CPM (Marxist Communist Party) stepped in. Near Chakia, close to the Majirathi Bandh, the Communists forcefully occupied 4,000 bighas of land. In Naugadh, South Chopan and North Duddhi area, the influence of the CPI (ML), CPM and Maoist Communist Community (MCC) has been increasing. In Sonebhadra, the influential CPI (ML), MCC and PWG has taken up the cause of the people.

The mafia gangs of dishonest contractors are earning crores of rupees from this region through unhindered exploitation of forest wealth. They do this under the very nose of the administration and police officials, who are given a percentage of this illegal earning. It is alleged that every truckload of sand earns the forest officials approximately Rs. 500 of corrupt money. The mafia of contractors makes large contributions to politicians and political parties, to ensure patronage of their illegal activities. Even the collection of tendu leaves is in the hands of the contractors who pay a very nominal amount, which is arbitrarily arrived at, while they themselves earn atleast ten times that amount.

The naxal presence in this region is a great hindrance to the illegal activities and the exploitation of the people, which is why the police have been asked to eliminate the naxalites. However, a corrupt police force led by corrupt police officials, without any knowledge of the forest or jungle warfare, is no match for the trained MCC cadres. Thus to please their political bosses, they turn on the innocent villagers. This is precisely what seems to have occurred in Narketi between 16 and 19 May 2001.

Incidents from 16th May to 19th May, 2001 as narrated by the Villagers of Narketi
On 16 May 2001, a few MCC members came to Narketi village and summoned all the villagers for a meeting. Around 100-150 villagers were present at the meeting. The meeting was held under the tree near the village temple. The purpose of the meeting was to call for a strike on the collection of tendu patta which the villagers sold in the market to supplement their income. The purpose of calling a strike was due to non-payment of dues owed to the villagers by the Forest Corporation over the past year. The Forest Corporation owed the villagers of Narketi Rs. 50,000/-, while in the entire block the balance due to the people was approximately Rs 17/- lakh. Another demand was for a raise in the wages paid for the collection of the leaves from Rs. 32/ to Rs. 40/- per bundle. (Each bundle consists of 100 bunches of 80 leaves each). The MCC told the villagers that the U.P. government was giving far less than other states like Madhya Pradesh and Bihar where the wages are as high as Rs 50-60 per bundle.

Also present at this meeting were three persons from the Forest Department viz. Kamlesh Upadhyay (Vandaroga) Forest Officer; Kushi Ram Dubey, Forest Guard; and Ram Lal, Watcher. At around 11:00 a.m. the meeting with the villagers came to an end, and the MCC sent the villagers back to their houses. The MCC continued to hold discussions with the Forest Department personnel. One of the villagers narrated the following: "Around 11 a.m. the naxalites ended the meeting and told us to go for lunch. They continued talking to the Forest Department people. We were making preparations for lunch when the police came into the village. Initially I heard one shot, but I don't know where that came from, whether from the MCC people or the police. After that there was a lot of firing by the police".

The villagers stated that the police began firing without giving any warning. Around 25 rounds were fired. The MCC people who were present fired in retaliation. The MCC took the three Forest Department personnel and left the village. The police too left the village. After about three hours, the police returned in five or six vehicles and began beating those villagers who were returning to the village from the forest. They then left the village after taking Nakhru, one of the villagers, into custody. He was released the next day on 17 May 2001.

It may be mentioned here that on 17 May 2001, the bodies of two of the employees of the Forest Department, Kamlesh Upadhyay and Kushi Ram Dubey, who appeared to have been abducted by the MCC the previous day, were discovered about 9 km away from the village. The third, Ram Lal, had apparently escaped from the MCC on the night of 16 May 2001. The violent rampage that the police went on the next day appears to have been in retaliation to the death of the Forest Department employees.

The following day i.e. 18 May 2001, the police returned to the village. The villagers hid in their houses out of fear. But the police forced their way into the houses, went on a rampage, beating people, destroying everything that was in sight and looted whatever was of worth. While beating the people, the police rebuked them for holding a meeting with the "naxalites", by which they meant the MCC. Nauhar, a lady from the village describes the police actions thus,
"The police personnel came straight into our houses, where we were hiding in fear. They pulled us out and began beating us. They used abusive language and beat everyone. They took away my neighbour's rooster".

Purushottam, a resident of the village describes his experience with the police on that day. "As I came out of the house the police began beating me. They asked me to take them to Chandrabhan's house. When I took them there we found Lachmi, Shyama, Ramchander (Pradhan), Ramkisan, Pattu, Ghura, Dulare and Rammurat gathered at the entrance to the house. They beat all of us and broke the roof of Chandrabhan's house".

Statements given by other men and women from the village during the site visit by the panel and the Public Hearing are recorded below.

Bimla: The police dragged me out of the house. One caught my neck and the other my hair. They beat me till the stick broke. They just wouldn't speak to us or give any answer to our questions as to why we were being beaten.
Phuljari: I was pregnant at the time and still I was beaten. My abdomen was also probed with a stick. My 5-year-old daughter was beaten severely on her hands.
Pattu: I was beaten by the police till I fainted and blood began coming out from my mouth. They left me alone only when they thought I was dead.
Radhe Shyam: I was tending the goats and was not in the village. When the police found me they began beating me. It was a group of around 15 policemen who beat me.

Laxmi: We wanted to welcome the police, to offer them water. Instead the police came and began beating us straight away. We tried to ask them the reason for them beating us, but we got no answer. I was beaten very badly. My son has been arrested. I was pulled out of my house, and beaten over a distance (of about 200m). The police kept asking whether I knew the naxalites. There is nobody to help us other than God. We went to see Sadyaprakash Sonar, a local MLA, but he too did not intervene. Sometime in October or November of 2001, the police again approached me and questioned me about the naxalites. I said I had no information. The police abused me, took the stick with which I was tending the cattle and beat me.

Rambart: The police broke into his home. His father was ill and they insisted that the father come out of the house saying that he was merely making a fuss. His father was pulled out of the house and terrorised. A month later his father died. The police also stole poultry and goats from the village and broke their few possessions and damaged their houses. The houses that were most damaged were those of Jaganath, Arjun, Dhunkdhair, Chandraban, Dhola and Phuljari.

That day the police beat men, women and even children. Anjani, Phuljari's 5-year-old girl was severely beaten on the hands by the police. She has been so terrorised that for months she would run away if any stranger approached the village. They destroyed the houses of those villagers whom they suspected of having links with the MCC. They took away chickens, farming implements, a bicycle, and broke household items such as pots, utensils and plates.

The police took twelve people of the village into custody. Their names are listed below:

Adivasis arrested on 17 May 2001 and released the following day

1 Babulal
2 Ghure
3 Nakhru
4 Sabhajeet
5 Ramvriksh
6 Santosh

Adivasis arrested on 17 May 2001 and still in prison as on 16 February 2002


1 Naipali
2 Shyama
3 Ghura
4 Ramshakal
5 Arjun
6 Dulare

Ramvriksh, one of the twelve put in jail, stated that they were interrogated several times, and also beaten. At 3:00 a.m. in the morning he could hear Shyama (another person who was taken into custody) begging for not to be beaten (is it better than saying, - screaming, "don't beat me sir"., what you say?) The following day six of them were released while the other six were detained and have been in jail for nine months now.

When asked by the Tribunal what the villagers' demands were, Guhira from the village succinctly summed up and voiced the feelings of the villagers by saying "the police should leave our six people and ask them to leave us alone." An incredibly small demand for a village, from a government that has not provided them with a school, irrigation facilities, roads or health posts. Inspite of all the damage done by the police, the villagers themselves did not voice the demand for compensation.

The only thing they requested from the administration was peace and freedom from the exploitation of the police.

BABATPUR
At Babatpur, the administration acquired agricultural land from farmers for the purpose of constructing Varanasi airport. The land was acquired from three adjoining villages viz. Mangari, Baikundpur and Karmi.
A farmer's organisation called "Sanyukta Kisan Sangharsh Samiti" (SKSS), comprised of farmers from these three villages, negotiating with the District Administration over the final payment of lands. With this, S.K. Pandey president, SKSS and District Magistrate DM reached an agreement on April 30, 2001. But on May 14, 2001, SKSS filed a petition protesting against the slow implementation of the agreement they have arrived at.

Incident on 22 May, 2001
As the administration started constructing boundary wall on May 22 2001, several women in the presence of ex-Pradhan (Karmi) and Pradhan (Baikantpur) obstructed their work. They lay on the ground and demanded that the administration should make final payments to the villagers.

At this, the Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) called for the police force. The police arrested both the Pradhans. The women present there, resisted Police from taking their leaders. At this police reacted and went on a lathi charge led by SHOs of Badegaon, Phulpur, SDM Pindra, the Director U.P. Singh and C.O. Sholapur. The women present were being chased by the police and were brutally beaten by the butts of their rifle. Some of the women were even stripped. The incident led to the flowing in of people from nearby villages. The police opened fire without giving warning. While one person (Mewa Lal) died others were injured in the encounter. Several people got wounded in the chest and leg.

Two injured men showed their bullet marks to the tribunal. The IPT met SKSS president, Mr Shashikant Pandey. The team also met Shanti Devi who had lost all her land.

BELWA
Village Belwa in Varanasi District has a population of about 7,000. The village has 8 purvas (Divisions), but only one Government School, which is not at all sufficient to meet the education demands of the village. In the Badepur purva of Belwa village, people eligible to vote are around 1,900. There are no high caste people; those living here are mainly Patels, Mushahars, Kohars, Lohars and Nuuts.

There has been segregation of village communities along caste lines. Generally the upper caste, i.e. Brahmins, Kshatriya and Vaishyas live together, while the lower castes, i.e. the Dalits and others live on the outskirts of the village. Traditionally, Dalits were not allowed upper castes dominated areas, nor could they use any facilities like community wells, hand pumps etc available there. If they did, the Dalits were punished and the upper castes would wash the "defiled" item in the Ganga to cleanse it.

Punishment for the Dalits translated into punishment for the whole community, but in the case of the upper castes, only the individual or the group of individuals concerned was punished.

Dalits are still living in segregated communities. Their locality has no modern facilities with regard to education, health, etc. All government development schemes are cornered by dominating higher caste who ensure that all-important posts are controlled by the people of their caste.

For example in Village Belwa, a Brahmin named Mr. Rajindra Tiwari controls the post of Pradhan for 20 years. During his tenure, he prevented the people of Badepur from voting and getting their photo-identity cards made. When the Women's Reservation scheme was introduced, he manipulated things in such a way that his wife Radhika Tiwari became the Pradhan. Ms Radhika being a traditional, homely woman was not fit for the job. She never comes out of her home and she has not held any meeting in the village since the day she joined office. Her husband's intention was to continue to exercise control over the Panchayat through his wife.
Meanwhile, he prevented any school from being set up for the Dalit community or any other development projects from being implemented in the Dalit area. In the recent Vidhan Sabha elections he once again prevented the entire Dalit community from exercising their right to vote. Apart from this, Dalits without their ration card, do not have access to the subsidized items available in their ration shops.

Mr Rajinder Tiwari has been running his own private school in the Government Health Centre in the village where the fee is too high and cannot be afforded by children of Badepur. However, there is a government school about 1 km away from the village with approximately 200 children but only 2 teachers. As a result, the quality of education leaves much to be desired.

The Dalits cannot hope for fair treatment from the Government or the Police, which are usually dominated by the upper caste. Local groups affirmed that even in the judiciary, if the judge happens to be a Dalit, manipulation is done to transfer the case to an upper caste Judge.

But now Dalits are getting more aware of their rights, and are organising themselves to fight for their rights. The upper castes feel threatened, and is becoming more violent both towards the Dalit and people's organisations, as is evident from the increased amount of threats received by People's Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR).

Incident on 12, November, 2001

On 12 November 2001, the local community at Badepur organised a street play with the assistance of PVCHR. Apart from education, the misdeeds of Mr Rajinder Tiwari were highlighted in the play. The following day, armed men of Rajinder Tiwari attacked Mrs Durga, the Coordinator of the Savitri Da Phule Women's Forum, and her husband Mr Adya.

Durga: On 12 November 2001 we had a street play on education in the village. The next day, early in the morning when I went to toilet, some goons of Rajendra Tiwari attacked me. I shouted for help. My husband who was nearby came to my rescue. They attacked him and he was seriously injured in the head. I was attacked because we had demanded a school. Then we went to the police and lodged an FIR at Phulpur police station. The officer asked us to take my husband for an x-ray as his head injury was very serious. After getting the x-ray report, we went back to the police station. There my husband was kept in police custody overnight. It was only when I informed the PVCHR the following morning that they went to the police station and got my husband released.

By the evening of the same day, three members of the group that attacked Durga were sent to jail. However the police, under pressure from political patrons of Mr R. Tiwari, had held Mr Adya, Durga's husband, in jail for more than 24 hours. Only after a lawyer had applied for bail was he released.

Other persons in the gathering also explained the situation to the members of the Tribunal.

Parmanand: At present Rajendra Tiwari runs his own private school in the Government Health Centre. We don't want to send our children there as the fees are high. The government school is about 1.5km away. There are around 200 children and only two teachers.

Kailash: I am a farmer. The Pradhan, Rajendra Tiwari has not done any developmental work for the last 25 years in our area. He and his wife have been leaders of the Gram Sabha through illegal means and booth capturing. The polling booth is placed near his house and his goondas surround the area and do not let non-supporters voteInspite of our names being on the voter's list we have been denied ration cards and a school. We are discriminated because we are from backward castes. We want a primary school and we want a Primary Health Centre and the land of the Gram Sabha that has been illegally taken over by the Gram Pradhan. Ever since we started our school the goondas have been harassing us. The local goondas include Mohan, Daula and Vidya Sagar-all supporters of Baba Singh (Block Pradhan).

Incidents of bonded labour were also brought to the notice of the Tribunal. Bothu Mushar working in a brick kiln related his condition. He had taken a loan of Rs 20,000 under Indira Awas Yojna. He was told that the house would be built of cement, but it was built of wood and has since collapsed. Since he is indebted, he now has to work as a bonded labourer in the brick kiln. He stated that there are over 100-250 people who work in the brick kiln and are bonded to the Gram Pradhan.

PIYARI
The following report about the incident at Piyari village has been compiled from written records (presented to the Tribunal of the incident and a deposition made by Lalman, a resident of the village, during the Public Hearing.

In Piyari village, the Gram Sabha passed a unanimous proposal of setting-up a statue of Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar in the Harijan Basti on the village land near the pond.

After the statue had been set up, Nepali Singh former Pradhan of the village, procured orders from the S.D.M. office to have the statue removed. A few days prior to the incident of March 26 2001, he was excavating sand from the pond near the Dalit Basti. The Dalits objected to this and he had to stop the activity. Around 8:30 p.m. on 26 March 2000, the officer in charge of Chaubepur Police Station Pramod Tripathi and several constables including a lady constable arrived in Harijan Basti. At this, Nepali Singh and Juit Singh along with Nepali Singh's sons reached there. At the same time the officer in charge of Sholapur Police Station along with his constables arrived at Harijan Basti.

The two officers along with the constables, and Nepali Singh and his group, went to the site where the statue was located and began removing it. Villagers from Harijan Basti explained to the police about how the statue was erected after a consensus was reached in Panchayat. And requested if there was an order for the statue's removal, they should do so without damaging it. Despite their requests the police and Nepali Singh uprooted the statue and damaged its dais before loading it in a tractor. At this, Harijan Basti residents demanded handing over of the statue to them but the police refused. The Dalits then stood in front of the tractor. The officers, as well as the constables, and others who had gathered there began heaping vulgar abuse on Dalits. The officers threatened the Dalits saying that they would break their legs and implicate them in false cases.

Suddenly, the police, and Nepali Singh along with his gang lathi-charged all the residents of Harijan Basti. They chased the Dalits and beat them with sticks. Even those who had tried to save themselves by hiding in the houses were not spared. The police, and Nepali Singh and his gang, broke down the doors and beat-up everyone in the Basti, injuring them severely. They also looted their money, jewellery from the houses, and smashed other things like television sets, weaving machines. Nepali Singh was also seen taking away chickens and hens from the Basti. Also to implicate the Harijans, he set fire to the police jeep (this is a serious accusation, it has to be put carefully, may be - the villagers alleged that Nepali Singh took away chickens and hens and set the police jeep afire in order to implicate them). This mayhem continued for an hour or so. Some of the villagers began throwing stones to protect themselves and leaving police and the villagers injured. Several villagers were seriously injured including women and children. To cover up for this bedlam, the police arrested around 20 persons, some of whom were below the age of 17 years.

Due to the police atrocities, the villagers fled from the village in fear of return visits by the police as well as Nepali Singh, as a result no FIR was filed immediately by the villagers in the local police station.

Public Hearing At Gandhi Aydhyanpeeth, Varanasi
A Public Hearing was held at 3:00 p.m. on 17 February 2001 at Gandhi Vidyapeeth Bhavan, Varanasi. Shortly before the Public Hearing, Justice K Sukumaran met with the press. Around two to three hundred people who were the victims of police atrocities from Narketi, Belwa, Babatpur, and Piyari villages came to depose the tribunal. Also present were Vijay Kumar Jaiswal and Mukundi Lal who came and deposed before the Tribunal. The statements given by the residents of Narketi, Belwa and Piyari have been recorded in the sections covering the report on these areas. The depositions made before the panel by Vijay Kumar Jaiswal and Mukundi Lal have been recorded here.

Vijay Kumar Jaiswal
Deposition made before the tribunal at the Public Hearing
My name is Vijay Kumar Jaiswal alias Kullu. I am a tempo driver and carry construction material in my tempo (I think we could say,- We are six brothers).. There is a dispute going on between we brothers regarding the division of land and house. Three of us brothers, Bholanath, Satyaprakash and me share a cordial relationship. We have differences with Chhote Lal, Dilip Kumar and Pradeep Kumar, our other brothers, who are well off. On 31 January 2001, due to in connection with our dispute, two of my brothers entered my house in my absence and badly beat up my wife and children. My wife later called me on telephone. I was at the tempo stand at that time. As soon as I reached home, two constables from Hanuman Phatak Police Station arrived at my place and without saying anything caught me by hair and dragged me away. When I protested they began hitting me with lathis and the rifle butt. On the orders of S.H.O. Adampur, I was send to jail. The S.H.O. Mr. Anil Rai said that he would take up my matter in the night.

At around 1 o'clock in the night, an intoxicated S.H.O. Rai arrived. He had me removed from the lock up Ttwo policemen on his orders took me to a pillar within the precincts of the police station spread my hands on the… pillar and the two policemen caught my hands. Then I was brutally beaten like an animal with a hockey stick. As a result of the beatings I became unconscious whereas my elder brother Satyaprakash who was also in prison fell senseless to the floor. After being beaten around 100 times with the hockey stick, my skin peeled off in several places. One kind-hearted constable gave me tea in the police station. The next morning I was released. Due to financial problems I was able to get a medical check up done at the District hospital only on 2 February 2001.

On 2 February 2001 my story was published in the newspaper "Aaj". After the newspaper article, Anil Rai has been looking for an opportunity to murder me. Anil Rai has taken bribes from my brothers and continues to threaten me saying that he will show me the real meaning of Section 151. Due to his inhuman beating my mental condition as well as my physical condition is upset. When Anil Rai was beating me he kept saying, "My name is Anil Rai and due to my beating, people either depart from the town or this life." The injuries are so bad that I have difficulty in sitting on the tempo seat. Morning ablutions are also very painful. Anil Rai has claimed that nothing can be done to touch him. The SSP is his close friend and he has powerful political security.

Vijay Kumar also showed the panel photographs of his wounds. The report of the inquiry conducted by the SSP, into the complaint by Vijay Kumar Jaiswal of custodial torture, (Annexure III) prepared in compliance with the order of the National Human Rights Commission, was also looked into. After reading the report the panel found that there were major contradictory situations that emerged from the statements given by the people in the report.

The most conspicuous contradiction is the date of arrest of Vijay. Vijay claims that he was arrested on the evening of 31 January 2001, while the statements of all the other persons have it that he was arrested on the morning of 1 February 2001. The statement of Satyaprakash gives no dates. While the stories of both Vijay Kumar and Satyaprakash concur with the fact that Vijay was not arrested along with Pradip and Satyaprakash, and was not present at the time of fight due to the unloading of the cement. However, statements of other witnesses, the constables and also the entry in the register indicates that Vijay was present at the scene of the fight when the constables arrived. Vijay Kumar, was arrested together with Pradip and Satyaprakash on the morning of 1 February 2001. The inquiry report makes no effort to verify this contradiction. The statements of the wives of Satyaprakash and Vijay have not been recorded.

The second contradiction concerns the injuries suffered by Vijay. According to his claim and statements, the injuries were due to police torture while in custody. This is borne out again by his brother Satyaprakash. While the statements of the other witnesses claim that Vijay was involved in the fight that took place between the brothers, Vijay claims that he was not present at all. Setting aside this discrepancy, yet another variance is seen in the statements recorded in the inquiry report. Some of these same witnesses go on to state that Vijay had abscesses on his hip, and due to the fight the abscess burst and there was blood oozing from his hip. However, in his statement, Head Constable (HC) 58, Shiv Pujan Singh, Police Post Hanuman Phatak, PS Adampur, Varanasi, has said that the accused complained of body pain but did not show any external injury or express desire for medical examination, hence there appeared no necessity for medical examination. This has also been verified by SI / Incharge of Police Post Hanuman Phatak, PS Adampur, Varanasi, Kamleshwar Singh.

Mukundi Lal
The team heard the statements of Mukundi Lal who tearfully narrated his story. According to Mukundi Lal, his son Satyendra was killed in a false police encounter. The root cause of the trouble appears to be a love affair between Satyendra's brother, a Dalit and a girl from Upper Caste Srivastava family. The Srivastava family being high caste landlords found this match impossible and had Satyendra's brother killed in connivance with the police. Then Satyendra filed a case against the Srivastava family in Sahabganj police station.

Subsequently, it appears that the police and the Srivastava family had falsely implicated Satyendra in 8 different cases under IPC, Cr.P.C., and Arms Acts. Finally, on 07-09-2001, he was declared a naxalite and killed in a fake encounter.
On the fateful day of 7 September, 2001 Satyendra Harijan had come to the Varanasi District Court at Kanchehari in the morning for the hearing of his case (Ref:- Session Trial No. 78, Year 1994, - State vs Satyendra and others, Nyayalai Shriman Duithia, Doothgami Nyayalai, Varanasi, Thana Sahabganj).

Three persons, Marachhu, Boojharath, and Mewa accompanied him. After the hearing, at around 1 p.m. the four walked towards the Eastern Gate of the Court premises, with the intention of going home. However on reaching the gate, they found the S.O. of Adampur Police Station, Bhulan Yadav and the S.O. of Ramnagar Police Station, Pradeep Singh Chandel, waiting with some men in a jeep. Amid abuses they forcibly grabbed Satyendra, dragged him into the jeep and drove away. The three persons accompanying Satyendra witnessed the whole incident. One of them, Mr Marachhu, immediately sent a telegram to the S.S.P. at around 1:50 p.m., informing him about the forceful seizure of Satyendra. At 4:30 p.m., the Ramnagar Police announced the killing of Satyendra in an encounter near Bhiti Village under
Ramnagar Police Station of Varanasi.

Though invitations were sent to the police, district authorities, and the State Government to attend the Public Hearing, none of them attended it. At the end of the Public Hearing, the panel was informed that a packet had been delivered by a policeman containing the police version of the happenings at Piyari village and the incident related to the killing of Satyendra S/o Mukundi Lal in a police encounter.
Lalman of Piyari Village narrated the incidents that occurred at Piyari on the night of 26 August 2000. This has been included in the Chapter covering the incidents at Piyari

Findings Of The Panel
The IPT Tribunal in the various site visits and the public hearing found a certain pattern when it came to the relations between Dalits, the state and the upper castes.

They are:

1) A Delibrate Attempt To Keep The Dalits Backward And In Poverty
All the Dalit villages visited were extremely poor, inspite of being eligible for numerable government schemes and benefits like schools, pumps, health services and government loans. It is impossible that there has been an oversight, or that the government machinery has failed to reach those areas in all the villages. The IPT team is of the opinion that this is deliberate. If these schemes had reached these people, they would have made use of them long ago as a stepping stone to uplift themselves and fight the oppression of the upper castes.

This view is further reinforced by the observations and depositions made before the Tribunal. For example:

a) Breaking Resistance: In Narketi the police which is supposed to be neutral and an arm of the State, involved in maintaining law and order, seems to be in direct collusion with the local contractors. The raid on the village and the subsequent beatings and terror unleashed on the village was more to break their resistance and their strike for a raise in wages. If the raise in wages were to be granted, it would detrimentally affect the income of the petty contractors, and marginally improve the livelihood of the villagers.

b) To Illegally Take Over Land Illegal Acquisition Of Land: In the case of the acquisition of airport land in Babatpur, it is clear that even though the people did not protest against the acquiring of their land, the State, instead of giving them their rightful dues, was intent on taking over the land illegally. When the people protested, led by the women of the village, the police had no hesitation in firing on them, and beating them mercilessly. It is questionable if the same would have happened if the land were acquired from an upper caste village. The IPT was not able to go into this but it would be useful and necessary to study the varying possibilities for land acquisition that were before the State, and whether this land was deliberately chosen because it belonged to a lower caste community.

c) Denial Of Basic Rights Like Education: The Tribunal found the Belwa case particularly serious, where a mild demand of building a school was met with such opposition. It is obvious that the local Pradhan and the upper castes in that area fear that once the villagers are educated, their power over them will be threatened. Therefore, all attempts are being were made to shut the school, and to prevent the village from accessing their rights granted to them in a democratic country.

d) Demolition Of Cultural Symbols Of Empowerment: This observation made by the Tribunal was further re-inforced in the case at Piyari village. In this incident, a statue of Dr. Ambedkar, one of the greatest Dalit leaders who institutionalised Dalit emancipation in the Constitution of India, was pulled down by the police in collusion with the local upper caste mafia without giving any notice or reason as to why the statue should be removed. There too the police were responsible for unleashing a reign of terror, beating women and children and looting household items and even poultry.

2) The Mafia In Uniform
It is apparent that the police in this area of the country are not involved in protecting law and order or in protecting the weak from the strong. In each case the Tribunal saw a clear indication of collusion of the police with the local upper caste mafia and actually being agents to implement the illegal activities of the upper castes in the region.

a) The Police have clearly violated their Service Rules, the SC/ST Act, the Constitution as well as International Covenants like the United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. There is no law in India that allows the police to arbitrarily arrest people, beat children, or terrorise and insult old people as was narrated in all the cases presented before the Tribunal.

b) In Belwa, when the goons of the Pradhan beat up the local activist, her husband was taken into custody inspite of there being no complaint against him. It is strange that the police should arrest and punish the victim, unless the police was hand in glove with the Pradhan.

c) In Babatpur and in Piyari Gaon the Police have acted contrary to human rights provisions laid down under the Constitution and by the United Nations Covenants.

d) Similarly, in the cases of Mukundi Lal and Vijay Kumar Jaiswal, the police have been used as agents by the rich and the powerful to settle personal scores by eliminating and torturing those who come in the way. The inquiry report submitted by the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) of Varanasi in compliance of the order of NHRC is not acceptable appears flawed as there are contradictory statements, as has been pointed out in the body of this report.

e) The people who deposed before the Tribunal see the police as 'goondas'; a force to reckon with rather than a force for good.

f) In all cases, the people mentioned that the police have been directly responsible for looting, pillaging and destroying their homes, and stealing their poultry and cattle. This is yet another instance of the criminalisation of the police force.

3) Is A Dalit Entitled To The Privileges Of A Democratic State?
After 50 years of independence, none of the privileges of living in a democratic state seems to have been given to the Dalit community. This has taken place in a country that, on paper, has one of the finest Democratic Constitutions in the world; a Constitution where Dalits are entitled to special concessions and privileges. The reality, in villages across Uttar Pradesh, and other parts of the country, is very different. For example:

a) A Feudal System Of Punishment: In cases like the Narketi case, where some of the people are alleged to support the MCC, the entire village is punished. This seems to be a common practice when it comes to "so called" crimes of the Dalits - communities are punished and not just the individual. However, when it comes to higher castes, individual punishments are meted out for individual crimes.

b) Complete Disregard Of Legal Procedures. The inquiry reveals that people are arrested and not brought before the magistrate, kept in custody without reason, and families are not informed that they have been taken into custody. The latter is in complete violation of Supreme Court guidelines in D. K. Basu's case (Annexure VII). Police firing is done without notice. Homes, statues are demolished without providing any notice. Innocent people are regularly tortured and exterminated. The most shocking of these incidents being the killing of Mukundi Lal's son. Mukundi Lal's son was picked up unarmed by the police, and his disappearance was noted in a telegram to the authorities. A few hours later his death was announced as an 'Encounter Death" - deaths which police justify as the death of an armed criminal whom the police had to kill in order to defend their own lives.

c) The Right To Vote Denied: In the village of Belwa, the very right to vote was denied to the people for years. The evidence discloses that even when they did try to vote they were beaten up and the booth was repeatedly captured.

d) People Centric Local Governance Non-Existent: Inspite of the Panchayati Raj provision and the powers of local governance given to the villages of India, the Gram Sabha either has no say in the local policies or a local upper caste goon uses the funds and the powers to maintain his feudal base

4) Basic Human Rights Are Violated

  1. We are not getting into the debate of how the State can or cannot control the use of arms for armed struggle. But, even in wars, human rights of the people are respected. During the visit, in the cases inquired into, the Tribunal found that the human rights of the people have been absolutely disregarded.
  2. The people are paid no compensation for the loss they suffer due to the terrorist acts of the police.
  3. The only association with the State is in the form of the police - the villagers used the word 'Prashashan' when referring to the police. Their only encounter with the State has been in the form of violence and repression, not in the form of any manner of welfare or service. For these people (according to their statements before the Tribunal), the State does not mean a post office, a hospital or even a ration shop. The State represents itself to them in the form of police who invade their homes, rob their poultry and cattle, and destroy their resources.
  4. No complaint mechanism for redressal in case of human rights violence. The state of U.P. does not even have a State Human Rights Commission.


Recommendations Of The Tribunal

  1. An immediate judicial enquiry needs to be conducted against the police officers involved in the various atrocities and police firings. Those involved must be punished.
  2. The people who have been victims of these atrocities must be provided adequate compensation. This includes those who have lost a family member, those injured, as well as those whose property and household goods have been looted and destroyed. (List of items lost, people injured annexed in annexure I and V). Such payments are in tune with legal principles and judicial decisions.
  3. It is only proper that the Government causes an impartial and independent inquiry to take place. A thorough investigation by a body like the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) needs to be conducted into the alleged collusion of the police with the local goons. Stringent punishment has to be meted out to the police as well as the upper caste mafia.
  4. A State Human Rights Commission needs to be put into place immediately and provided with the necessary budgetary provisions and infrastructure if it is to function efficiently. It must have effective powers and those practices which have been set in place in states that do have such Commissions should be studied and followed.
  5. The Guidelines provided by Justice. D.K. Basu on arrest and detention must be strictly followed. (A summary of the guidelines have been annexed in annexure VII).
  6. Under no circumstance should people be tortured. The practice of community punishment must be stopped immediately.
  7. The powers of the Gram Sabha should be upheld when it comes to implementing local policies.
  8. The Scheduled Tribe Commission should be notified about the fact thatelsewhere in India, Kol, Mushar and Kharwar, are notified as Scheduled Tribes but here they are Scheduled Castes. This is important as Scheduled Tribes are entitled to special privileges which at the moment they are denied.
  9. Basic amenities like land titles, irrigation, water, schools and health facilities must be provided to these people. A review of existing government schemes which provide such facilities with inspections by responsible offficials should be conducted periodically, to ensure that these people are not denied access to these schemes.
  10. The villagers should be made aware of their rights and judicial decisions. However if the entire village is illiterate, this poses a massive problem. The Tribunal came across villages where there was not a even a single literate person. In the village of Narketi for example, even the Pradhan and his father who was Pradhan before him were not literate. This emphasises the necessity for literacy measures to be taken ensuring total literacy among all sections of society.

It is important that these steps are followed and the government punishes those guilty of victimising the weak and the underprivileged if faith in the Rule of Law is to be restored. If not people will be pushed to become extremists and take up arms and the very fabric of the society will be threatened.

Conclusion
To be able to live under the rule of law is a citizen's basic human right. This right, which the citizens of a democracy take for granted, has been fought for, in the world, over a long period of time spanning many centuries. Even while acts of great and heinous illegalities are committed, the candle of hope for the enactment of a just rule of law should never be allowed to be extinguished.

One of the great indirect benefits of British rule was the spread and popularity of the idea of the rule of law among the people of India. This came about because, for a century before British power was established, the rule of law had collapsed in many parts of India. Slowly and steadily the British built up an infrastructure of a rule of law, which is neutral, and not subject to the capriciousness of individual rulers or favouritism and deference shown to men of status or wealth. At the end of British rule the founding fathers of the modern republic of India did not go back to the ancestral or religious laws of the Hindus and the Muslims. They put their trust in the rule of law as they had learnt from a Western power, the British. The impressive Constitution of India bears witness to this historic story.

India belongs to the community of democratic nations that honour the rule of law. There are, however, some dangerous developments that should not be overlooked. In some states like Bihar, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh powerful landlords willfully murder vulnerable lower caste villagers; men of astounding wealth that could only have been accumulated by ill-gotten means may be charged but somehow avoid appropriate punishment; ordinary humble people are still over-awed by the cold and distant majesty of the law. The forces of law and order are far too brutal in their dealings with the ordinary people; and unscrupulous politicians are allowed to get away with organising a "rent a mob" crowd, equipped with guns, to intimidate their opponents.

A continuous monitoring of both the equity and efficacy of the process of procedures is vitally necessary for maintaining a civilized rule of law in India. At the local level it should begin with immediate restitution of property and provision of justice to the people of Naketi, Belwa, Babatpur and Piyari Gaon as well as individuals like Mukundi Lal and Vijay Kumar Jaiswal who have suffered grievously in the hands of the police.

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