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Wednesday, October 21, 2020

‘They killed him as they couldn’t stand a Dalit man saying no’

On Friday evening, Satyamev, a first-time pradhan of Bansgaon, was shot dead, allegedly by the upper castes. A day later, there is heavy police presence in the village, with the upper caste houses locked, and the Dalits alleging Satyamev was killed for refusing to kow-tow to the Thakurs.

Written by Asad Rehman | Azamgarh | Updated: August 17, 2020 2:11:30 am
The pradhan’s relatives after the funeral. (Express Photo by Asad Rehman)

His Family says the 42-year-old had been named ‘Satyamev Jayate’ after a lot of thought. A nephew would be named ‘Lincoln’ because an elder was reading about the US president who abolished slavery, when he was born, while a cousin would get the name ‘Ramu Ram’.

Dalits like them outnumber the upper castes 5:1 in Bansgaon village of Azamgarh district, but real power has rarely slipped out of the hands of Brahmins and Thakurs — like at most places in Uttar Pradesh.

On Friday evening, Satyamev, a first-time pradhan of Bansgaon, was shot dead, allegedly by the upper castes. A day later, there is heavy police presence in the village, with the upper caste houses locked, and the Dalits alleging Satyamev was killed for refusing to kow-tow to the Thakurs.

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Another casualty of the shootout was eight-year-old Sooraj, who allegedly got crushed by a vehicle in the protests that broke out after the pradhan’s murder. On Saturday, his family alleged the boy had come under a police vehicle.

The police have lodged a case against Vivek Singh alias Bholu, Suryansh Kumar Dubey, Brijendra Singh alias Gappu and Wasim for Satyamev’s murder. Dubey has five other cases against him, including attempt to murder.

DIG (Azamgarh Range) Subhash Chandra Dubey said they were going by Satyamev’s family’s claims “till the accused are arrested and questioned”. He added, “It doesn’t matter what the motive is. The murder of an elected person is a very serious crime.”

Regarding the allegation that Sooraj had come under the wheels of a police vehicle, the DIG said they would probe the matter.

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Lincoln, who says he used to assist Satyamev in his work, claims several incidents of altercation between the pradhan and the Thakurs in the recent past. “They were jealous of Satyamev’s stature and the fact that he walked around with his head held high. They murdered him because they could not stand a Dalit man saying no to them,” says Lincoln, 32.

There are around 300 Scheduled Caste families in Bansgaon village, and just about 30-odd families each of Thakurs and Brahmins. Given their small numbers, the upper castes have not held the pradhan post since long.

Lincoln specifically blames Suryansh Kumar Dubey, saying he had been pressuring Satyamev to give him a letter attesting he stayed in the village. “Dubey had come over thrice in the past few weeks… My uncle had refused… On the surface, they made it seem like they had no issue with us, but the Thakurs hated the fact that Dalits had a voice and could stand up to them. This was done to show us our place.”

Lincoln says that after the murder, the four accused went to Satyamev’s mother, and abused her using casteist slurs. “They told her they had killed Satyamev. They asked her to go see his body.”

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In her FIR, Satyamev’s wife Munni Devi has alleged that Vivek Singh had come to their house around 5 pm on Friday. “He took my husband on a motorcycle to the tubewell nearby. Later, Vivek Singh, Suryansh Kumar Dubey, Brijendra Singh and Wasim took him to Singh’s pond. There, they shot him.”

Satyamev and Munni have three children, the eldest 12. The couple lived in a large joint family, comprising around 30 members. Ramu Ram claims a month ago, there was a dispute regarding land with one of the four accused, Gappu. “He had usurped a road meant for public use for his private pond. Gappu didn’t give up the land despite a compromise being reached.”

Ramu Ram, a government official posted in Kolkata says, the fact that several Dalits of the village were now educated and holding good jobs had added to the upper caste resentment.

Lincoln says it was through such hard work and education that the family now owned around 15 bighas of land in the village. “This was another reason the upper castes did not like my uncle.”

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A cousin of Sooraj, the child who died on Friday, says he was present when it happened. Deepak, 18, who claims to have also been injured in the police action, says, “There was anger among the people after the pradhanji was killed. We demanded that the police arrest them, but they did not take any action. The crowd got angry and pelted stones at the house of the accused. When they were marching to the police chowki, the police started a lathicharge.”

He says Sooraj came under a police vehicle in the confusion. “Everyone there saw it. The car had CO (Circle Officer) written on it,” Deepak says.

BSP chief Mayawati tweeted on Saturday that the two deaths on the eve of Independence Day were very sad. “What is the difference between the last SP government and current BJP government if Dalits are discriminated against and murdered?” she wrote.

DIG Dubey said the police and administration had ensured that the situation didn’t spin out of control, and invoked the stringent Goonda Act, Gangster Act and National Security Act against the accused. “We have declared a reward of Rs 25,000. We have detained their immediate family members… All four will be arrested soon.”

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