Three houses and a storage unit owned by the family of the Dalit head of Palia village in Azamgarh district lay ransacked on Wednesday. Along with demolished walls, household items and appliances lay strewn around, just the way they were a week ago when police allegedly entered the village at night and ransacked the houses. A tractor stood parked outside the storage unit, mangled.
There was a similar picture of destruction — broken appliances, food grains strewn on the floor, and beds and cots vandalised — at the house of village chief Munna Paswan’s uncle Rajpath, who earlier headed the Dalit-dominated village.
The village head’s family alleged that the “destruction” occurred on June 29 after a row erupted in the nearby village market over a girl from the Dalit community meeting a Bengali youth named Littan Biswas.
Munna Paswan’s sister-in-law Sunita Devi, 45, said her brother-in-law, who was elected in the recent panchayat polls, wanted to resolve the matter as two teenagers from their family had gone to thrash Biswas for meeting the girl.
“Two constables misbehaved with Munna and hit him on the nose and he started bleeding, after which the locals thrashed one of the policemen. Our family members were not the ones who thrashed the constable,” claimed Sunita.
“The police did not spare the women in the house. They came around 8.30-9 pm on the day when the row erupted. They disconnected the power supply in the village. The men from the house fled when they heard that the cops were coming. They had brought bulldozers with them.”
The Azamgarh police denied the allegations. On Tuesday, they released a statement claiming the families had damaged their own homes to pressure the police not to arrest Munna and his other family members for assaulting the police.
A neighbour of the village head, Shiv Chandra Paswan, 60, said he fled as he feared arrest. “I stayed in the fields for four days, and returned only after political leaders started the protest.”
Rajpath’s daughter Priyanka, 19, said the police did not spare anyone. “They beat up whomever they saw. There were hundreds of policemen and at least three bulldozers. They even took away my phone because I was recording videos. The policemen used casteist slurs and beat us up.”
After protests by Opposition parties continued at the house of the village head, the district administration ordered a magisterial inquiry by SDM (Lalganj). “The Station Officer of Raunapar police station was attached to the police lines Tuesday night,” said SDM (Sagdi area) Gaurav Kumar. “The family had demanded removal of the local inspector, which has been done. Also, their demand for a probe has also been fulfilled.”