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UP Dalit family killing: Police now arrest youth from same community

Referring to the 11 initially named in the FIR, the ADG said: “The people who were named in the FIR so far, it was found that there was some small dispute with the deceased man’s brother. No evidence has come out till now to show that they murdered the family.”

At the victims’ home in Prayagraj on Sunday. (Express photo by Ritesh Shukla)

A DAY after UP Police named 11 people from an upper-caste family in its FIR on the murder of a Dalit family in Prayagraj, and said that eight had been arrested, they issued a new statement Sunday stating that they have now arrested a youth “who belongs to the same community as the deceased” for the killings.

The police also said that the rape of the girl, who was among those killed, has been confirmed.

In the statement issued Sunday evening, ADG (Prayagraj zone) Prem Prakash said: “The 23-year-old accused belongs to the same community as the deceased. He was harassing the girl by sending her messages on her mobile phone repeatedly. The girl was refusing (his advances). On the basis of the last message and circumstantial evidence, he was arrested.”

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It was on Thursday that the bodies of the father (50), who was a daily wager, the mother (45), and their daughter and son, were found inside their house. On Saturday, the police suspended two of its personnel for allegedly pressuring the Dalit family over the past two years to compromise with the upper-caste family in a dispute linked to grazing land. Members of the Dalit family had filed two police complaints but no action was taken.

On Sunday, a close relative of the Dalit family, who is with the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), questioned the new police version — and compared this case to the gangrape and death of a 19-year-old Dalit girl in Hathras last year.

“I got a call from a policeman who named the person who, the police claim, killed them. I don’t know him. I was told that he lives 5 km from our house… I will believe this new statement only after the other accused are caught and more details are revealed. We all saw the Hathras case where police changed their version so many times,” said the 50-year-old victim’s younger brother, who is posted in Jharkhand.

In the latest police statement, ADG Prakash said: “It has been established that (the 23-year-old) with some others, killed the family members. He has named some people, but keeps changing them. The investigation about the others involved is ongoing. We are taking action based on call details and DNA profiling.”

Referring to the 11 initially named in the FIR, the ADG said: “The people who were named in the FIR so far, it was found that there was some small dispute with the deceased man’s brother. No evidence has come out till now to show that they murdered the family.”

ADG Prakash said that “some messages were found” when the police checked the girl’s mobile. “When the 23-year-old was held, he denied sending any messages and denied knowing the girl. But when his mobile was found, the messages were there,” he said. Referring to the “deceased girl’s date of birth” as “June 1996”, the ADG said that “POCSO sections will be removed”.

“Rape has been confirmed on the girl…But we have sought medical opinion about how many people committed the rape. The panel of doctors who did the post mortem has said that there was symmetry in the injuries on the body parts of the girl, which suggest that one person has killed her,” the ADG said.

Referring to the accused, the ADG said: “When his body was checked, some injury marks were found on his body and shirt. He says that they were paan stains, but they seem to be blood stains. We are sending his clothes and other evidence for DNA profiling.”

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The latest police statement contradicts the contents of the FIR and Prayagraj DIG Sarvashresht Tripathi’s comments on the case Saturday.

Tripathi had said: “Eight people out of the 11 named have been arrested. The remaining two are in Mumbai, and teams have been deployed to trace and arrest them. One accused is admitted in a hospital and is not able to walk. We will question him as well. We will probe the case from all possible angles.” Tripathi could not be reached for comment Sunday.

Earlier Sunday morning, The Indian Express visited the house of the victims, and came across several items scattered on the floor: a jar of pickles, a pair of sports shoes, a pair of slippers, clothes, utensils — and marks of dried blood.

“I broke the door open, and saw my brother lying in a pool of blood. I panicked and left. I called the police helpline number and entered the house again only after the police arrived. I saw that my sister-in-law and their two children were also lying dead. There was blood everywhere,” said the 50-year-old victim’s younger brother.

“I saw that my niece’s body did not have clothes. She was gangraped,” he said.

According to the brother, FIRs were lodged in September 2019 and September 29, 2021, based on their complaints against the upper-caste family over the land dispute — but in vain.

The four brothers of the 50-year-old live together less than a kilometre away.

“The issue started on September 2, 2019, when members of a Thakur family took objection to my mother’s complaint that their cattle were grazing on our pulses farm. A few days later, they came with some others and beat up another brother of mine, his wife and my mother, who is now deceased,” the younger brother said.

According to him, the family lodged a complaint, and after “much reluctance”, an FIR was lodged against six persons from the upper-caste family. “They cracked open my brother’s head, beat up other family members,” he said.

According to police, an FIR was lodged on September 7, 2019, under IPC sections for assault, rioting and criminal intimidation, and under the SC/ST Act. The complaint, based on which it was lodged, stated: “The accused family leave their cattle on our farm to graze. When we raised this issue with the family, they came to our house and beat us up. They also used caste slurs against us and threatened to kill us.”

However, the younger brother said, no action was taken “even after my brother’s medical test showed serious injuries on his head and body”. “He needed six stitches after the assault with lathis,” he said.

After the FIR was filed, the upper-caste family put pressure on the victims to compromise and withdraw the complaint, the brother said. “On September 21 this year, they again beat up my brother, the one who was assaulted earlier. We lodged a complaint, and an FIR was lodged eight days later,” said the brother.

This second FIR was lodged under similar IPC sections as in the first — rioting, assault, criminal intimidation — and provisions under SC/ST Act. This time, the complaint stated: “We fear that something may happen to us.”

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