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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

In village of Dalit man killed in Gurgaon: ‘Our lives don’t matter’

“He used to work here (in the village) for a pandit who was getting his house built, but after construction stopped, he was left jobless,” Anuj’s maternal uncle Yogendra Kumar (36) said, sitting outside the hut that belongs to Anuj’s family.

Written by Asad Rehman | Jaunpur |
Updated: August 7, 2021 12:40:33 pm
Anuj Kumar’s grieving relatives in Saddupur village, Jaunpur, on Friday. (Express Photo: Asad Rehman)

On July 4, Anuj Kumar Harijan (21), left home in Saddupur village of UP’s Jaunpur district to find work in Gurgaon so he could send money to his family.

“He used to work here (in the village) for a pandit who was getting his house built, but after construction stopped, he was left jobless,” Anuj’s maternal uncle Yogendra Kumar (36) said, sitting outside the hut that belongs to Anuj’s family.

The families of Anuj and Yogendra live in two huts built on 300 sq feet of land surrounded by pucca houses belonging to “pandits” (Brahmins).

Inside, members of the Dalit family sat on Friday, mourning the young migrant worker who “had gone to the big city for a better life”.

Anuj was beaten to death by men armed with sticks and rods in Gurgaon’s Sector 37 on Monday. Police have said the men mistook Anuj and his brother-in-law Sanjay for people who had harassed a woman whom the men knew.

Sanjay (32), has said that is a made-up story, that they had done nothing to any woman, and that the men, who were in an SUV, had seemed enraged merely at the sight of migrant “Biharis”.

On Thursday, police in Gurgaon arrested the main accused Manjeet, a manager at a badminton academy that the woman attends.

Anuj’s last rites were performed on Wednesday in his village in the Baksa police station area, some 250 km from Lucknow. Yogendra said Anuj’s mother, 37-year-old Sunita Devi, still refuses to accept her son is no more. “She keeps repeating that her son will send her money as he promised when she last spoke to him on Sunday evening,” Yogendra, who works as a labourer in the village, said.

Anuj had been forced to give up studying after his father fell severely ill three years ago. “He dropped out of school in Class 12. His father had diabetes, and had to leave his truck driver’s job in Kolkata and return home. Anuj had no option but to start working. He had left the village to look for work for the first time two years ago, but had come back in six months. This time he did not come back,” said Sagar (20), a cousin who worked with Anuj in Gurgaon.

“We worked in the same factory. He made Rs 7,500 per month, which was more than double of what he could have made here in the village,” Sagar said.

Sagar brought Anuj’s body back in a private ambulance that cost the family Rs 25,000.

“We pooled money and gave the driver Rs 4,000 in advance. The family borrowed the remaining Rs 21,000 from a money-lender,” he said.

Sagar too had gone to Gurgaon in the first week of July. Anuj and he shared a room that they had rented for Rs 1,500 per month. “Anuj and I were close,” he said.

Neither Sagar nor any other member of the family will now go back to Gurgaon. “It is better to die with respect here than to live in fear of dying like Anuj. It could have been any of us. The people in the city treat us like we are some bad people. I can’t get over the moment when I got a call from an unknown person saying Anuj was badly injured after he was beaten up over a woman being harassed. Why would anyone in our financial situation get into a jhamela like that? We could barely make ends meet, and sent some money back home as well. I will starve here in the village, but I won’t return to the city,” Sagar said.

Anuj’s father Premchand was 42 when he died six months ago. He had been bedridden, and the family had borrowed heavily for his treatment.

“We are still in debt of around Rs 1.5 lakh, which we took from different people and money-lenders,” said Anubudh Kumar Harijan, Anuj’s 18-year-old brother. Anubudh too had to drop out of school and now works in the fields and homes of Brahmins in the village.

Anuj’s had a younger sister who died at the age of 4 because “she was not born healthy”, the family said. Only Anubudh and his mother Sunita remain of the family now.

Sanjay had told The Indian Express earlier that the people who beat Anuj “had been drinking and were enraged at their sight” on Monday. The family in the village is still not sure why Anuj was killed.

“Sanjay said that some people beat him to death. We are not sure what happened. All we know is that the breadwinner of our family was killed for no fault of his,” Anubudh said.

Asked if the family would pursue the case, he said, “How can we? We are here (in the village). The case is there (in Gurgaon). No one from the police or administration has come to meet us. I think the people who killed my brother will get away. I hope the government does something to help us.”

At Baksa police station, located about a kilometre from the family’s home, most had not heard about the incident. One official, who did not wish to be named, said, “I did read about it in the paper. But the family didn’t contact us, and hence, we did not contact them. Also, the case is in Gurgaon, so we can’t do anything.”

As per the FIR lodged at Gurgaon’s Sector 10 police station, Sanjay had said there was a woman in the SUV who had alleged that Anuj and Sanjay had misbehaved with her. The two migrants had denied this, but were still attacked, said the complaint. The FIR was lodged against Manjeet, Puneet, Manish and others for alleged assault and intimidation.

Anubudh said he did not have much hope from the “jaanch” (probe). “I have heard they belong to the city. We are landless labourers. Our lives don’t matter anyway,” he said.

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