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Why a Dalit basti in Mathura has been a ghost town for last three days

It was here on July 28 that a mob lynched Lalua alias Shyam, a Dalit, for allegedly raping and killing a 12-year-old upper caste girl Lali.

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The Valmiki Basti in Parkham village, about 10 km from the Mathura refinery in western Uttar Pradesh, has been a ghost town for the last three days.

At the front is the house of Lalua with household items lying strewn across the floor and cots turned upside down — with no people to drive them away, chickens and dogs have laid claim to everything inside.

It was here on July 28 that a mob lynched Lalua alias Shyam, a Dalit, for allegedly raping and killing a 12-year-old upper caste girl Lali. Sonu, the other man that the mob attacked that day, is lying on a hospital bed in Agra with both his legs and an arm covered in bandages. “It was Lalua, I did no wrong,” he said.

Today, the tension in the village is so high that about 20 families living in the basti have fled their homes fearing for their safety. And the Parkham railway station, where the girl was last seen talking to Lalua and which acted as a border on each side of which the Thakurs and the Valmikis lived, is now guarded by about 20 to 25 armed policemen deployed to keep peace.

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Groaning in pain on his hospital bed, Sonu said, “Not one villager wanted to save my life. Had the police not arrived in time I would have been dead, too, like Lalua.”

The deceased girl’s father Mukesh Singh, who belongs to the Thakur community, is an agricultural labourer. His family is in mourning and he is agitated about his daughter’s “brutal murder”.

“Anybody who would have seen the condition in which my daughter’s body was found, would have wanted to kill those two men right there. She was raped, her face was disfigured and she was dumped in the shrubbery near the railway track. What the villagers did to those two men is absolutely right. Had I handed them over to the police, I would have never got justice,” Singh, now a father of five, told The Indian Express.

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Senior Superintendent of Police Rakesh Singh said the UP police have registered two FIRs — one in the rape and murder of Lali, naming Lalua and Sonu as accused, and the other in Lalua’s death against unknown persons.

Singh added that they will investigate the case further after Sonu, who is under treatment at the Sarojini Naidu government hospital, is fit to give a statement.

“This (the mob attack) is not lawlessness but a sudden reaction to the incident. In a charged mob, even unknown people participate. A mob does not intend to kill but such things happen in society. It cannot be justified legally. They have taken the law into their hands and they will be arrested and sent to jail,” said the officer.

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Following the lynching, Inspector Tejbir Singh, Constable Pradeep Kumar and the local chowki in-charge Nepal Singh were suspended, Singh added.

Mukesh said his daughter took her cow for grazing near the railway station at about 2.30 pm on July 27 and did not return. “At night there are no lights in village. We looked for her with our torches but did not find her,” he said.

The next morning, the Thakurs confronted Lalua after Brijesh, Mukesh’s neighbour, said that he had seen Lali talking to him near the railway station.

According to the FIR, the villagers “sternly asked” Sonu and Lalua about Lali following which the two confessed and led them to the spot in the dense shrubbery where she was raped and killed.

The outraged villagers then decided to take the two to the police chowki, it added.

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Police said Lalua, however, made an attempt to flee and was chased down. The villagers then took the two to a spot 4 km away from the chowki and allegedly thrashed them, it added.

“As soon as we got information about the incident, we rushed there and took both of them to the hospital. But Lalua did not survive,” said Singh.

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Sonu, who worked as a sweeper at the railway station, said he was combing his hair at his home when the agitated villagers reached there.

“Lalua had done wrong. He had two similar cases pending against him. He used to go to Mathura for court dates. When the villagers confronted him he took my name and that of two others — Arjun and Rajkumar. I could have run away but I had no fear because I did no wrong,” he said.

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Sonu’s father Shyamlal had been a sweeper with the Railways for 30 years. The family hails from Agra but has been living in Parkham due to Shyamlal’s job which Sonu took over. Sonu said his wife is mentally ill and two of their children died soon after birth.

“The Thakurs took us near a canal. They hit my head repeatedly with a lathi. Then they hit my feet and then broke my legs. I can’t remember all the faces. There were about 50 to 60 people,” Sonu alleged.

On Wednesday, Sonu’s parents waited by his bedside along with two police officers posted at the hospital for his protection. “My son took over my job because I was too old to work,” Shyamlal said.

Sonu’s mother Ramsinghi broke down when asked about her son. “We will never go back to Parkham. We are too scared. My son has a sick wife, both his children died and now he is on a hospital bed,” she said.

“We don’t know where the rest of the Valmikis in the village went. All we know is we can never go back,” Shyamlal said.

First published on: 31-07-2015 at 04:09 IST
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