Cold-blooded killing of Dalits in Bhavanipur
15 April 2001
Mirzapur district in Uttar-Pradesh reminds one about the carpet belt and the struggle of a number of NGOs in the area for the right of Child, though one does not know how many children have been rescued and what are they doing in the aftermath of this. Yet, Mirzapur never came in to news for an important reason for which the entire Vindhyanchal region of Uttar-Pradesh, which include districts of Chandauli, Mirzapur, Robertsganj, Ghazipur, because the affected people have been Dalits.
Two horrific incidents occurred in Uttar-Pradesh during the same period. One was a small news item in the national dailies (I doubt whether they ever are national themselves) but the regional Hindi (Hindu) dailies had huge headlines saying :16 Naxalites killed in Mirzapur. I thought how come Naxalism started its base in eastern Uttar-Pradesh though as a human rights activist and that too with a continued grass-root touch I have information of local struggle for the honour of the Dalits, and tribals.. of women and other marginalised sections for their fair wages and land entitlement. Yet the news in the local Hindi papers was sounding funny because it seemed to me that the news was written in Lucknow by a fellow journalist with the help of police officials, so I tried phone people in that area to know about the incident and fix up a tour of myself and two other fellows from Delhi to do a fact finding of the entire incident. And during our visit to the area between 28th March onwards, we spoke to almost the entire village population of Bhavanipur, which is about 500 families of mixed caste population. About 25% of them are Kurmi, the main landowning community of the region, 25% Yadavas, 25% Chamars and 25% Kols all landless and marginalised. The faces of the people were narrating the stories of police brutalities and terror in the area. Days after the incident when the state government has order an inquiry from a magistrate police men continue to come the villages and threaten the people to be ware of their Gavahi in front of the magistrate.
Bhavanipur is a small village in the Rajgarh Tehsil of Mirzapur district. It is about 60 Kilometer from Varanasi and 70 Kilometer from the district headquarter of Mirzapur. If you travel from Varanasi to Chunar, the famous Naugarh fort built by Humaun. It is a very hilly route and takes about three hours by your own car. Bhavanipur is about 4 Kilometer from the main Mirzapur-Robertsganj road.
It was 8th March, two days before Holi. There was a marriage celebrations of a village girl and a large number of people had gathered there. In the nearby house of Bhagwan Dass, a Dalit, some secret conclave of activists was going on. It was sure that they might have been belonging to some naxal group but this area has not witness any such activity in the recent past except that two months ago some of them had allegedly killed a police inspector. As the meeting was going on the house of Bhagwan Dass, suddenly the police force of the three districts had cordoned off the entire area. It was certain that some body from the village had all the information and had leaked it to the police. The villagers say that about 100 trucks of police surrounded the area. The meeting in the inside room of Bhagwan Dass continue till the police got the door opened. Every one in the village was asked to verify himself or herself. Those who belonged to village were asked to accompany the police people and go with them to the house of a former Sarpanch of the village Satyaveer Singh, belonging to a backward Kurmi Community. Here in the house of Bhagwan Dass, about 16 people remained locked who were outsiders? Two of them have been recognised as having come to attend the wedding celebrations >from nearby villages. When the people had surrendered, there was no need for police to go for an encounter. Village people have informed us that how they were brutally beaten by the police and how every one of them surrendered by raising their hand. Even the old women were not spared..The language as used was abusive.. And see every household is complaining that the police have looted their houses during the period when they were kept arrested and when the encounter took place. While the police claim that they have killed their leader Devvrat and Suresh Mani both belonging to Kol community yet it has not been verified. However the crude fact is that two innocent young students were killed in this entire episode because they didn t belong to the village. The question here was not whether they killed Naxalites or not.. The question is of ethics. It is clear that police did not follow the ethics in this entire case and the entire story of an encounter is planted by the police as going and speaking with village folk will clarify the picture of police horror and conspiracy hetched by the feudal element of the village.
To hide its misadventure, the police officials visited the village of Bhavanipur again two days later and made some artificial sign of firing on various huts and other areas so that it could be proved that this was an operation and firing was coming from the naxalites. It is strange that in the cross firing which killed 16 people or naxalite as the police use the term, not a single policemen was injured or killed. It is greatness. This area has not reported any naxal activities so far and if the police had any record for that it should have been brought forward.
The two persons who have been identified as Naxalites were simple village folk. One Suresh, a student of 9th standard in Kisan Inter College, went to see Video on the occasion of marriage. This Suresh was made as Naxalite to cover a wanted fellow who may have been working with MCC or ML. The police did not have the curtsy to visit his parents who work with the Railways in the village Nadihar about 10 kilometer from Bhavanipur. His parents got to know about the incident through a newspaper advertisement put up by the police. They did not get his body nor any clarification from the police.
It is also clear that those who were used for police verification in Panchanama were the henchmen of the former Sarpanch. Clearly evident of the fact that village Sarpanch Jai Ram Kol, who is a dalit had no say in anything. In fact our attempt to locate him at his house failed. This is the democratic set up in the villages which Ambedkar had mentioned as feudal in nature where corruption and redtapism exist. I asked the former Sarpanch as why didn t the police involved the current one and his answer was usual that his house is quiet far from this place and he was unavailable. What does it means for village democracy if the Police can come to any village and kill any number of people without keeping inform the village Pradhan or Sarpanch. Question is not about whether they were Naxalites or not. The question is of following certain democratic procedure which completely failed on this occasion.
The old Sarpanch or Pradhan is heading everything but the current one is isolated because of his caste and land. Kurmi, though considered to be backward community in Uttar-Pradesh, is a newly emerging assertive community and has the right amount of land to exploit the landless dalits.
An important thing to mention is that Mirzapur is the constituency of Rajnath Singh, the chief minister of Uttar-Pradesh. He was a teacher in a government college here but never won election from here. After his elevation to the Chief Minister of Uttar-Pradesh, it is alleged, certain officials have got free hand to tackle the crime . Rajnath Singh is BJP s upper caste card against the continuous Dalitisation process of the polity. To save it >from the upper caste anger, BJP continue to placate them. Its backward dalit card is exposed after Bangaru Laxman was carefully targeted while the Brahmin bureaucrats and other members were rescued by the RSS lobby. In the upper caste and middle class scheme of things everything that the Dalits do looks like criminalisation process. Hence whatever the Chief Minister is doing in the name of Naxalism will have a sound upper caste backing. With media on its right side, the BJP and its chief minister are on the offensive. We will see who talks of human rights.. human rights are never meant for criminals was the war cry of Kalyan Singh, criminal himself declared by the Supreme Court on the Babri Masjid demolition case. All these rhetoric s are helpful for the upper caste police officials to crush the voice of dissent and demand from the poor sections of society particularly the Dalits and Marginalised. And as I mentioned above fighting for your land right, minimum wages and other related issues will automatically termed as Naxal activities in this global scenario when the gap between the working masses and elite classes is increasing handsomely. The ruling class has made these arrangement to kill the poor whenever they demand for any thing. Already through the greatest budget , Yashwant Sinha has already killed the trade union movement in India. It is not just trade union but right to minimum wages and right to fair conditioned in the work has been targeted to help the greedy industrialists and feudal landlords.
When the political class is so happy to kill the people and ignore their voices, their stooges in power will do everything to keep them happy. And that brings us to second theme of Mirzapur which is an overactive police force ready to go for any killing for the cause of their elders. How will they get award if they have not killed the Naxalites. It is reported that the police officers in the Mirzapur encounter have got handsome postings and promotion.
And see the irony. Those talks of social justice and dalit rights kept a conspicuous silence on the issue. Another sorry state of affair is that they say it is not on their agenda. "We don t want atrocities some of them would argue. The more atrocities are committed on Dalits the better they will organise themselves against the Brahmanical system", said an intellectual claiming to set Dalit agenda. Now such theories are dangerous. There is a third theory in this entire scheme, which is to bark on the communist while keep a conspicuous silence if you compromise with the BJP and Sangh Parivar. Where will this take to the entire Dalit movement is a matter to be seen but definitely, the BJP cannot be their right partner. Surely, Dalit movement has arrived on a stage where it can judge who are its best friends and who are its enemies. Not only the Brahmanical system but also the current economic social order being promoted by the Capitalist societies need to be targeted by the New Dalit Movement. And unless, you take on the issue of atrocities, some body will else will speak on behalf of them and then there will be no point in saying that the upper castes (communists) are misleading the innocent Dalits and getting them killed as being termed by a large number of arm chair dalit intellectuals since their only quality seems to be to speak in purely caste term without doing any factual work among the lowest of the low.
It is important for Dalits to understand this global conspiracy and make an alternative visionary policy on every aspect of our life. It is time we sit on a mission vision exercise of Dalit movement which deals with the issues of land reform, education, health and sanitation, minimum wages and annihilation of caste, which remained unfulfilled dream of Baba Saheb Dr Bheem Rao Ambedkar, the emancipator of Dalits. Mirzapur killings symbolise the upper caste oppression of Dalits and it will continue because now the ways to oppression have increased. It is the economic sector, which is increasing feudalism, and so one day if Dalit take up arm, should not surprise any one.
Mrs Phoolan Devi is the Member of Parliament from Mirzapur. Everybody knows the story of Phoolan. For a large number of upper caste she is a dacoit and that the state withered away by pardoning her but for a vast masses of Dalits she is a heroine who fought against an oppressive order and got them justice. They are proud of her that a Dalit woman can be like that. In the Bundelkhand region, another hero is waging a war against the state. It is Dadua and people say he was just arrested once. And now the police has put an award on him. Every year, police men, people from other department earn a large amount in the name of Dadua. This year, under the heaviest police arrangement when the Panchayat polls were conducted most of the Panchayats and Blocks in Chitrakoot, Fatehpur and Banda gave their verdict for the Dadua men. Now his relatives who have become members termed him as hero. People of the area say that he is their God, who they don t know or see but due to whom they have been saved from humiliation from the upper castes and feudal landlords. Now many of us living in cities may cry why the hell state is not acting to kill such people, a very similar approach that we all want in Kashmir " why the hell those who don t like India leave it is a typical Indian middle class response without understanding the significance of these movements and problems.
And that s why I say, the government of India or the so-called mainline political parties keep mum on the issue. Media is hand in glove with them hence massacre of Dalit will attract our attention if they are killed in Laloo s Bihar. If they are being brutally murdered in UP, MP and Rajasthan, they won t get any mention. While media was obsessed with kanpur by terming all the Muslims as ISI agents or members of SIMI, Mirzapur event remained undercarpet, perhaps to welcome Rajnath Singh s new initiative to tackle the law and order situation in Uttar-Pradesh, which according to latest report from the National Human Rights Commission is the worst offending state of human rights in India. Will such targeted action not make more Naxalites or terrorists ? A time has come for all of us to ponder over as where do we want to take our country and what exactly is now the impact of new economic policies which are strengthening the old brahmanical social order of oppression and exploitation. Isn t it time for all of us to sit, think and act together.