and State atrocities on Dalits in Varanasi, UP
Interim Report by the Indian People's Tribunal
The Indian People's Tribunal (IPT) on Environment and Human Rights
was invited by the People's Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR)
to conduct an inquiry into the atrocities committed by the police and
the State against the dalits in and around the areas surrounding the district
of Varanasi. PVCHR has been working in the area with the dalits and through
the year 2001, has been documenting and conducting fact-finding missions
on police excesses in the area.
The IPT panel was headed by Justice K. Sukumaran (Retired Judge of the
Kerala and Mumbai High Court) and included Dr. Kusum Singh, a professor
from St. Mary's College, USA who has written widely on Dalit issues, Dr.
Ambedkar, and Gandhi, accompanied by Deepika D'Souza, Sunil Scaria, and
Devlyn Neunes from the IPT Secretariat from Bombay and Delhi. The panel
visited the affected villages in and around Varanasi on 16th and 17th
The itinerary of the tribunal included a site visit to Narketi, a remote
village about 108 km from Varanasi on the first day. The following day
the villages of Belwa and Babatpur were visited. Followed by a public
hearing at which both the people and the government were given an opportunity
to place their grievances before the tribunal. Although, as is the general
practice of the IPT to send invitations to government officials and police
officials to come and give their statements to the Tribunal, no one came
and deposed personally in front of the Tribunal. The Tribunal learned
that towards the end of the hearing that some documents had been brought
to the premises by the Circle officer of Chetganj on behalf of the SSP
The terms of reference for this inquiry were as follows:
1. To investigate into police firing on a peaceful protest.
2. Torture and illegal detention by the police.
3. Victimisation of dalits.
After studying the evidence from the reports presented to the Tribunal
and hearing the oral statements of the people, the IPT made the following
In the village of Narketi the villagers said that the members MCC had
come to their village and held a meeting regarding the collection of Tendu
leaves. The MCC told the villagers that they were to stop collecting Tendu
leaves as they were being paid only Rs. 32/- while in the neighbouring
states of Bihar and MP Tendu collectors were earning as much as Rs. 60/-
per 100 bundles. The police getting wind of this meeting entered the village.
There were several rounds of firing. The next day the police returned
without giving notice or showing a warrant entered the villager's houses
and pulled out the women, beat them mercilessly, especially on their inner
thighs and breasts; they even beat a five-year-old child who happened
to be standing by. The Pradhan and other elders were thrashed with lathis.
The police then proceeded to raid the houses, broke their few possessions,
demolished two houses and then stole their livestock.
The next day they returned and rounded up 12 people, six of whom where
released the next day while six were detained and have been in prison
since May 16, 2002 without any bail being granted. The wife of one of
the men arrested was pregnant at that time. She told the tribunal how
the police have returned repeatedly to the village and tortured her. Her
belly was probed with a lathi and foul language was used against her and
the other women. The Tribunal could find no justification for the detention
in prison of six people from the 16th of May 2001 till date. The village
is so remote that the IPT Panel reached the village with great difficulty.
There is no road in the village, no school, no water for irrigation, no
health centre for at least 25 kilometers. It is surprising that the local
government has not ensured that even the most basic facilities have reached
the village and when the village raised a legitimate demand of wage increase,
the State unleashes a reign of terror.
At Babatpur the Tribunal was exposed to the brutality of the police. Due
to an airport extension project several people lost their lands, some
of whom were rendered completely landless. Though compensation amounts
were fixed, these were yet to be given to the people. The villagers, including
a large number of women had gathered to protest against ongoing construction
work on a boundary wall of the airport extension project. They demanded
that their compensation be handed to them first before any construction
work commences. They then began to obstruct the work on the project. As
a result the police who were present there in force resorted to firing
at no provocation from the people resulting in the death of one person
and bullet injuries caused to six people.
In the Badepur area of Belwa village where the lower caste community and
dalits resided, blatant misuse of power was revealed to the Tribunal.
The former Pradhan, (Mr. Rajendra Tiwari) of the village had occupied
the position for 20 years. After the introduction of Women's Reservation
he made his wife the Pradhan. However, she is a Pradhan in name only.
In reality her husband continues to run things as before. She has over
the period of five years not once stepped into Badepur area. Here the
people were deprived of the right to education by being pressurized to
send their children to the private school run by Rajendra Tiwari in the
Government Health Centre in the village. People described how they were
prevented from voting (and us some case even from getting photo identity
card). Many people in the area have even been denied ration cards even
though many of them would be classified as below the poverty line. An
adivasi brick kiln worker also narrated how he was working as a bonded
labour in the local brick kiln.
Durga narrated an incident in which goons of Rajendra Tiwari attacked
her early one morning when she had gone to ease herself. On calling for
help her husband came to her rescue, but he was badly beaten and suffered
injuries on the head. He was taken to the police station and the officer
in charge recommended that he be sent for an x-ray. After returning from
the x-ray, they were taken to the police station and Durga's husband was
kept in prison over night, being released only the following morning.
Even though the police arrested three people in connection with the attack,
Mr. Tiwari, through his political connections, brought pressure on the
police to have them released.
Mukundilal, an elderly man who deposed before the Tribunal during the
public hearing on the 17th of February at the Gandhi Vidyapeeth tearfully
narrated how he had lost two of his sons in fake police encounters. He
said that the police were killing innocents in the guise of claiming them
to be naxalites. He stated how his son, Satyendra Harijan, was forcibly
taken by the police just outside the Court at around 1 p.m. on the 7th
of September and then declared dead in an encounter at 4:30 p.m. of the
same day. Out of fear he now lives in a distant village and has to look
after the large families of his murdered sons).
Vijay Kumar Jaiswal an auto rickshaw driver narrated at the public hearing
how he was tortured by the station officer of Adampur Police station officer,
who was in an inebriated State in the middle of the night. His clothes
were removed and he was beaten with a hockey stick. He even showed the
photograph taken of the ghastly wounds caused to his legs because of the
Lalman from Piyari
village stated on behalf of the dalits residing in that village an incident
of the police resorting to unjustifiable barbaric behaviour. In another
case, the police came with a tractor to pull down a statue of Dr. Ambedkar,
which the villagers had erected in his honour in the village. The police
and the local feudal lord began breaking the statue and loaded it into
the tractor. The pleas of the dalits not to break the statue were not
heeded. Even after the badly damaged statue was loaded onto the tractor
the dalits requested that it be handed over to them. When their request
was not granted the dalits then stood in front of the tractor and prevented
it from leaving. At this the police and the local feudal lord along with
his goons began chasing and beating up the dalits. Women who were present
ran into their houses. But their doors were broken down and they were
pulled out and beaten. Their household items were destroyed and looted.
Several of the dalits were then arrested and implicated with false charges
that they had attacked the police officials. Such atrocious behavior of
the police cannot be justified on any grounds.
Findings of the Tribunal
- The police cannot
resort to firing except in cases of self-defense. The police firing
at Babatpur is totally unjustifiable. In the case of Narketi, a villager
deposing in front of the panel stated that he heard one shot first,
and is not sure who fired it, whether the naxalites or the police. This
was followed by a series of shots. The return of the police the next
day to beat the villagers, destroy their property and loot their livestock
is completely illegal and unjust. Even in situations of war, the warring
countries are guided by rules relating to prevention of abuse of human
rights. The actions of the police on unarmed people should all the more
be tempered down.
- A lot of injustices
are perpetrated on the dalit and lower cast communities due to caste
prejudice. The police who are supposed to be upholders of the law appear
to be caste biased in their dealings with the dalits and lower communities.
- Brutality by the
police cannot be justified on any grounds. Torture under detention,
and going on rampage of beating up unarmed people, including women and
children, without any kind of provocation is unjustifiable. The procedural
guidelines for police behaviour, it would seem, are not known and definitely
not adhered to.
- Lack of educational
facilities for dalits and lower caste communities depriving them of
their educational rights. Bonded labour thrives on illiteracy and the
Pradhan of Belwa's deliberate attempt to deprive the dalits and lower
caste communities from quality education is an example in point
- Despite gross
human rights violations in the State, the State Government has not yet
a 'State Human Rights Commission' in place.
of the Tribunal
- There should be
an inquiry by the National Human Rights Commission into the police atrocities,
which should be done within a reasonably quick time frame. If the police
officers are found guilty appropriate action should be taken against
- If bail can be
granted to murderers to allow them to stand for elections, then the
6 villagers from Narketi who on prima facie evidence seem to be victims
of larger political forces, kept in prison since the 16th of May 2001
should be granted bail.
- Adequate compensation
must be given to those who have suffered due to police atrocities and
excesses. In the case of the acquisition of land for to the expansion
of the airport, firstly the people should be compensated before the
construction work begins. Secondly, one person from the families of
those that have lost their land should be given employment by the Airport
Authority of India.
- A State Human
Rights Commission should be put in place immediately.
- There should be
free and fair elections held in Belwa for the post of the Pradhan as
the present Pradhan is only a puppet in the hands of her husband.
- A separate inquiry
should be conducted into the whereabouts of Satyendra Harijan on September
7, 2001. Compensation should be given to his widow and children. Similarly
in the case of the auto rickshaw driver and in the case of the beatings
of the villagers of Piyari village an investigation should be conducted
and the villagers should be compensated.
The villagers of Narketi
have been needlessly made to suffer and been reduced to a State of penury
by the police. An immediate investigation must be instituted and the villagers
must be compensated not only for the injuries caused but also for the
mental trauma undergone and the loss of property and livestock. If the
government does not pay attention to its most deprived people, they will
lose faith in the rule of law and be pushed to take up other means to
Justice K. Sukumaran,
Indian People's Tribunal on Environment and Human Rights, Mumbai.
-- Aloysius D'Souza