Caste tension is brewing over the rape and killing of two minor cousins at Katra Sadatganj village in Badaun district. While the deceased girls belonged to the Maurya Shakya caste, the accused are all Yadavs. More importantly, as the victims’ families point out, most of the police staff at the village (some of them since removed) and in nearby areas are also Yadavs.
At Katra Sadatganj, inspector Sarvesh Yadav and head constable Chhatrapal, both Yadavs, were sacked after the girls’ relatives accused them of not registering their complaint.
Data collected by district police officials after allegations of bias against the force by villagers revealed that 11 thanedars or SHOs of the 22 police stations in Badaun district are Yadavs, as are senior inspectors in six other police stations. In a 10-15 km radius around Katra Sadatganj, in an area known as Katri region around the Ganga river, six of the nine police stations have SHOs from the Yadav community.
Apart from Sarvesh and Chhatrapal, the in-charge of the Katra Sadatganj police post, also a Yadav, was suspended after the rapes. In the new team that has taken over, there isn’t a single Yadav.
Senior police officials admit complaints of bias but say there is no proposal yet to transfer these officers. “Action has been taken where there has been prima facie dereliction of duty. It just so happens they are from a particular community. We have tried to post new officers to the Katra Sadatganj chowki to help villagers feel secure,” says SP, Rural, Om Prakash Yadav.
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Both Yadavs and Maurya Shakyas are incidentally OBCs but, under the Samajwadi Party dispensation, Yadavs are seen to wield more clout. While they number fewer compared to Maurya Shakyas in Katra Sadatganj, in the region, the Yadavs are numerically stronger.
On Wednesday, family members and neighbours of the two deceased girls sought weapon licences for their “security” from Bareilly Commissioner K Ravindranayak, submitting a list of 23 to be allotted the same. Ravindranayak said the new DM who is to take charge soon will pursue the request. “If family members do not have any criminal history, we will try to facilitate their licences. Our purpose is to create an environment where the bereaved family members feel secure.”
Babu Ram, a friend of the victims’ family, argued that the local constables who are armed with only lathis couldn’t give them protection from the Yadavs. A “witness” in the case, he added that he needed special security. “The accused know I am the only witness, they are already telling the police lies that I am somehow involved. How can we trust the police anyway?” Babu Ram said.
Now the Yadavs are also claiming a threat to them, citing the charged atmosphere in the village. The family of the accused brothers left their house a day after the incident, despite the police security provided to them, and is staying on the banks of the Ganga. Their immediate neighbours who had also left the village have since returned and are now constructing a pucca door to their home for “security”.
The father of the accused brothers, Veerpal Yadav, returns to his home mostly after sunset to collect rations. “The day the police came to arrest my sons, the Maurya boys came with lathis and stones. They were threatening to come in… I had to take my wife and my eldest son’s wife and run via the backdoor. Have my sons already been declared guilty? Why are we being treated like this?”
His neighbour is reluctant to open his door to anyone, answering almost every knock with, “We are an old couple with our granddaughter, there are no young men here.”
Karan Singh, the pradhan of Jati village that is dominated by Yadavs, said they feel “orphaned”. “I have spoken to pradhans of Yadav hamlets in Kheda Nangla and Badam Nangla. We are trying to speak to the police and Badaun MP Dharmendra Yadav. He came here but only visited the victims’ family and ignored us. Not a single inspector at the police post is from our community anymore. If the accused’s family is being given weapon licences, we will ask the police to also help the father of the accused. If they target us, who will listen to us now?” Singh asked.
While admitting that relations between the two castes had never been so bad, Katra Sadatganj sarpanch Kamal Kant said, “For years there was a lot of threat from Yadavs here. The only action taken against them was during the BSP government. In the last four-five years, with the flooding of the Ganga, many members of the Yadav community have migrated to villages, including ours, or formed small hamlet villages. There is a fear of the Yadavs.”
Kant, who belongs to neither caste, also says there is nothing new in the pro-Yadav bias. According to him, the police post in their village has always been partial towards them. “All the staff was Yadav, they would eat at Yadav homes in the village. For the first time in 30 years, there are no Yadav police officials at the chowki.”