Baitha case: Angry villagers want Lalit Yadav punished
The Times of India News Service
NAGARI (Bhojpur): The acquittal of the RJD MLA and former minister of state for co-operatives, Lalit Yadav, in the Dalit truck driver Deenanath Baitha torture case by a Patna court last Monday notwithstanding, the anger of Baitha's co-villagers at his native village Nagari, about 95 km from the state capital, in the Bhojpur district has not subsided.
"The man (minister) must be hanged after a fresh probe by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and trial in higher courts into the circumstances that made Baitha withdraw the accusation against his tormenters," fumed Baitha's elder brother Gupteshwar. "Baitha's greed for money has made us lose face in society," he said adding "Mantri ne usey kharid liya (the minister bought him)".
Baitha and truck cleaner Karu Ram were kept in illegal confinement at the official residence of Lalit Yadav and allegedly tortured for a month by the ex-minister and his henchmen on the charge of stealing a truck in the first week of June last year. They were rescued by the police with severe wounds and extracted toenails. Following an uproar over the incident, RJD chief Laloo Prasad Yadav sacked Lalit Yadav. The latter went underground then and ultimately surrendered before the court and was sent to jail when the NHRC turned up the heat. However, the victims, Baitha and Karu, did a volte face and said the torturers were different persons.
Four days after the judgement, this reporter was on Friday witness to an ugly quarrel between Baitha and his family members who berated him for putting at stake the prestige of the family and other villages. Baitha's younger brothers, Surendra alias BDO and Shribhagwan's comments like `he should have taken advice from family members and elderly villagers before deposing in the court' infuriated him. Baitha was engaged in a verbal duel with them and said: "Why should I take advice from anyone? No one comes with a helping hand to me."
"Don't make excuses for your sinful acts since everyone in the village knows about your underhand dealings with the mantri. By giving way to the enticement of the minister's men you have maligned the village," said Baitha's septuagenarian uncle Musa Dhobi.
Baitha's elder brother Gupteshwar said, "You have to repent for what you have done." His mother, Jeera Devi, intervened and separated them saying: "Chala, hata log. Eeh nautanki karat baran (go away, he is doing nautanki)." Talking to The Times of India, she said, "Why blame others when aapne sikka khot ba and has forgotten all after getting money from the tormentors." She angrily cursed his son Baitha, "We have considered him dead since the day he went in a Maruti alongwith mantri ke chamachawa and returned with a black mark on dignity of the villagers."
When asked about the anger of his family members, Baitha said, "Now I am disobeying them as they have spent all my earnings on different absurd works. Now, I am a poor man. I have not taken money. They are making false allegations against me." He admitted having gone in a Maruti alongwith two co-villagers to attend in the court on April 24 and denied that he had changed his statement in the court for money. He claimed that Lalit Yadav had `not' tortured him.
Claiming to be unaware of the Lalit Yadav's acquittal, Baitha said that Karu had given his full statement in the court. According to him, no other question related to the details of the torture incident were asked in the court.
The disappointed villagers blame the police for not handling the case properly. They said that the versions of Baitha and Karu recorded by the TV wallahs just after they came out from the minister's captivity with severe wounds should have been treated as recorded statement. "When the victims retracted from their earlier statements, why were the tapes not taken into account as was done in the case of the Tehelka expose?"
The residents of Nagari were equally angry with Lalit Yadav for his alleged attempt of buying Baitha. There were many in the village who said that Baitha had purchased a four-katha plot. They claimed that Baitha has paid the price of the land but not got it registered for reasons best known to him. Baitha, however, refuted the charges and said, "I am earning my livelihood after working as a contract labour. Purchase of land is distant dream for me."