CHANDRAPAL Singh says he is not a “deshdrohi (traitor)”, just a common man fed up of the system. “That is why I hoisted the Pakistani flag on the terrace of my house,” says the 36-year-old, who is now in Kanpur District Jail on sedition charges.
The only breadwinner in his family of four and the father of one, 36-year-old Chandrapal believes he did nothing wrong. “Main ek aam aadmi hoon, jiski kahin sunwai nahin hui. Gareebon ki koi sunta nahin, unhe jail mein daalna bhi sabse aasan hai (I am an ordinary man, who nobody cares for. Nobody listens to the poor, it’s also easiest to put them in jail),” he says. “And see, I just had to put up a Pakistani flag on my house and everyone is listening to me now.”
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Speaking through a window of the Kanpur jail, Singh says he made the flag himself — “placing a moon and a star-shaped white cloth on a green satin piece bought from the nearby P Road Market”.
He resorted to this, “an idea I got from watching news”, after exhausting all other options, Singh adds. “My house was demolished by my rich neighbour, who is building his home illegally. They threatened me when I contacted the police and got the construction work stopped. I received an enormously high bill for house and water taxes. I made the rounds of the KDA and KMC (Kanpur Development Authority and Kanpur Municipal Corporation) too, but no one paid heed to me. I paid bribes and wrote letters to the chief minister, governor, district magistrate, SSP, all went unheard.”
Police took note of the flag on the evening of November 3, after members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal staged a demonstration outside Chandrapal’s house.
SHO, Sisamau police station, Dharmendra Singh, says an FIR had been lodged under Sections 124-A (sedition) and 153 (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot) of the IPC against Chandrapal.
The officer adds that he doesn’t know about any complaint from Chandrapal regarding the construction work, though his neighbour had accused him of harassment. “I told the two families to try sort out the matter through mutual consent,” the SHO says.
The neighbour, Rajendra Kumar Verma, refuses to talk on the matter.
Rajeev Shukla, PRO, Kanpur Municipal Corporation, says he first heard of Chandrapal when the news of his arrest appeared in papers. “I am not aware of the taxes he is talking about. But if has filed a complaint, his issues will be resolved, may be not immediately, but in some time,” Shukla says.
Chandrapal, incidentally, comes from a BJP family, with his elder sister Rajni Verma having fought for the Aligarh mayor’s seat on a BJP ticket. She was in Kanpur to arrange for Chandrapal’s bail.
Having shut down his father’s small confectionery shop, Chandrapal says he took to astrology a few years ago. The family, including Chandrapal’s wife and son, his elder brother Brijendra Singh and his son, and their father Kishan Singh, survives on his meagre earnings. Chandrapal’s mother Shimla Devi died around eight years ago, after a prolonged disease, which cost the family all their savings.
At the family’s dilapidated house in Kanpur’s Jawahar Nagar, Chandrapal’s wife of 10 years, Poonam Singh, keeps breaking down talking about her and her son’s future.
“Humko to pata bhi nahin chala kya hua. Wo humko batate to hum zaroor rokte (I don’t even know what happened. Had my husband told me, I would have definitely stopped him),” she says, showing a file containing copies of the complaints Chandrapal had sent to various authorities, some dating back six-seven years.
At the same time, Poonam alleges that the Pakistani flag was hoisted on their house by their neighbour, and that the latter did so in conspiracy with the BJP and Bajrang Dal.
Despite their association with the BJP, the family was being targeted by party and Bajrang Dal men, complains Chandrapal’s sister Rajni. “We can do anything inside our house. My brother hoisted the flag on his own terrace. How is that sedition?” she says.
Diwakar Kumar, a local BJP leader who was among those who protested outside Chandrapal’s house, says a person hoisting Pakistan’s flag can never be a BJP member. “People like him and his aides who thought of this idea must be punished,” Kumar says.
Chandrapal’s father Kishan, now pushing 90, points out that police came within five minutes of the flag going up. The Jawahar Nagar police post is right opposite their house. “Photu bhi khich gai or use ghar ke andar se utha ke bhi le gaye. Itni jaldi to murder ke case mein bhi nahin pahunchti police (Photos were also taken, and he was dragged out of home. Police don’t show such alacrity even in a murder case),” Kishan says.
At the jail, Chandrapal’s eyes well up as he talks about his nine-year-old son, whom he hasn’t seen since his arrest. However, he is confident he won’t be behind bars for long — “bhagwan itna anyaay nahin karega (God won’t be that unjust)”.
The jail authorities are not so sure, saying Chandrapal could be looking at 10 years in jail, if the sedition charge is proved.
“I don’t think he was aware of the consequences of his actions,” says Kanpur District Jail Superintendent Vipin Mishra.