The village of Chakfareed in Uttar Pradesh’s Ghazipur district is all but deserted. Every other door has been knocked down, all the men have fled and the women and children left behind rush into their homes when a stranger walks into the village.
The village is less than 1 km from where head constable Suresh Pratap Vats was killed Saturday when a mob attacked a police vehicle with stones after he tried to end a traffic jam caused by protesters belonging to the Nishad Party. Hours after Vats died, the police raided Chakfareed village.
The UP Police said Sunday that 11 people were arrested, taking the total number of arrests to 20. Locals said the police raid was swift. While the village chief Satish Chandra Rai could not be reached for comment, locals said that there were around a dozen Nishad families in the village.
“The police came in four vehicles at around 7:30 pm. They asked or said nothing and just started beating the men in the village. Doors were broken, property was damaged and people were attacked,” said 30-year-old Indu, a resident of village’s Dalit basti. “Men in the village have now either run away or were taken by the police.”
Of the 32 named in the FIR for murder, 13 belong to Chakfareed and the rest are from the villages of Antwa Fatehpur, Bachhalpur, Gandapa, Pahadpur Taufeer and Manariya.
The men arrested included three of 55-year-old Champa Devi’s sons from the Nishad basti in the village. “They took all my sons, Ram Prasad, Virendra and Deepak. They had come back to the house from work in the evening and had just eaten the first bite of dinner when several policemen came and forced them inside their vehicle. I kept asking what wrong they did but no one said anything. I have no idea where they are now,” she said.
She points to the broken door of another resident, Ram Ashish Chaudhary when Gotri (30) interrupts. “They took my 13-year-old son, Fajihat and I don’t even know where he is,” she said.
Earlier Sunday, ADG Varanasi (zone) P V Ramasastry confirmed that the police have arrested 20 people after the incident Saturday when head constable Vats was killed. “I do not know the exact number, but I believe more than 10 were taken by police last night from this village,” he said.
He denied that police assaulted Chakfareed residents and said that only those named in the FIRs were arrested or taken into custody based on evidence.
“Nobody needs to be scared if they haven’t done anything wrong. About the information that people are scared in villages, in a day or two they will know who has been named and who hasn’t. They might return to their villages then.”
Eyewitnesses told The Indian Express that after Vats was injured, he was taken to a temple nearby.
“There was a marriage ceremony at the temple. Around 4 am people with banners and caps of the Nishad Party gathered on the road. They were more than 300 of them with red flags, a portable mike raising slogans and demanding the release of their associates and threatened that they won’t let anyone through the road if the demand was not met,” said temple priest Dharmanand Maharaj Ji.
“The road was jammed on both the sides. They even started attacking the vehicles. Then, a small force of local police came. They were just around a dozen in number and did not have any shields. Stones were thrown at them. Some even fell inside the temple. Then we saw that the crowd pushed an injured policemen (Vats) in the mustard field by the roadside,” he said.
“When we saw this, we ran to save the policemen. We somehow dragged him inside the temple premises. He had injuries all over his body and was soaked in blood. We made him sit and gave him water. He stayed with us for some time and later policemen took him away. Today I got to know that he died,” he said.