“Yeh makaan bikau hai (This house is for sale)”. A contention over who wrote this statement on the wall of the home of the only Valmiki family in a Bijnor village has resulted in an FIR against two local journalists.
While the Bijnor police said the FIR was registered for “fake news reports claiming that a family” in Titarwala Basi village “was not allowed to collect water from a village hand pump”, Lokesh Devi Valmiki, who lives with her four children, said she reached out to journalists in Bijnor because she was not allowed to access drinking water by other residents of the village.
In the Dalit-majority Titarwala Basi village, hers is the only Valmiki family.
Following the news reports, the journalists now face charges of making assertions prejudicial to national integration and causing public nuisance, after a magisterial inquiry found the journalists guilty of spreading “false” and “negative” news.
The FIR against them records Lokesh Devi as saying that the journalists had written the statement on the wall, saying it would help her get justice. “What the journalists wrote on my house is wrong. I told them not to do it but they still took photos and videos of it,” the FIR records her as saying.
Lokesh Devi said that she did tell officers who visited her home that the journalists had written the statement but that she had said it out of fear. “A havaldar had told me that we would go to jail if we had written it, so I said that to the officers. But we wrote the statement, and are even now considering leaving the village if we don’t get justice,” she said.
Ashish Tomar, who works with Dainik Jagran in Bijnor is among the journalists facing the charges. “I got a call on September 4 from Lokesh’s relative. I visited the village with reporters from three other organisations the next day. We did our work and returned,” he said. The other journalist named in the FIR is Shakeel Ahmed from News 18.
According to Lokesh Devi, there is only one hand-pump in the village. “My family is not being allowed to use it. On August 29, my son went to get water and some men began to trouble him. When my 17-year-old daughter and I went to get him, they began attacking us and tore my daughter’s clothes as well. That day we went to complain at the police station in Mandawar,” she said.
Following this, the police booked 15 people under section 151 of Code of Criminal Procedure – preventive arrests – and they were released within 24 hours.
“The ones who dishonoured my daughter are still walking around the village. I decided that we can no longer live in this village and wrote that the property is on sale on the outer wall with a piece of charcoal. I have some relatives in Bijnor and we reached out to some journalists to tell them about what is happening here,” she said.