Deoria: The recent murder of a Dalit pradhan in the Bansgaon area of Azamgarh, Uttar Pradesh, has resulted in a wave of protests across the state, with citizens calling for justice. Activists, including those from Dalit organisations and other social outfits, and opposition parties, held protests in the district and in other places in the state on Sunday against the brutal murder which happened in the Tarwan police station limits.
The village head, identified as Satyameva Jayate alias Pappu Ram, was allegedly murdered by four members of the Thakur community. He was taken to a nearby tube well in the village by one of the accused, where he was allegedly shot dead by the upper-caste men, according to his family members.
Upper Caste Folk Wary of Dalit Sarpanch
The gruesome incident allegedly took place on Friday night in Bansgaon village, which has close to 300 families with members belonging to Scheduled Castes. It has about 30 families each from the Thakur and Brahmin community.
Munni Devi, the wife of the deceased, alleged that a man named Vivek Singh had visited their house in the evening of the murder. “Vivek came to our place and took my husband on a motorcycle to the tube well nearby on the pretext of a feast,” she added. “Later, Vivek Singh, Suryansh Kumar Dubey, Brijendra Singh and Wasim took him to Singh’s pond. Following a heated argument at the meal, Pappu’s friends shot him dead,” she alleged.
The accused then informed Pappu’s family about the murder and fled the spot. Following the incident, villagers staged a protest and blocked a road. The protest eventually turned violent. An 18-year-old boy died during the demonstrations after allegedly coming under a police vehicle.
The police have lodged a case against the four accused mentioned in the FIR. Azamargarh Deputy Inspector General of Police Subhash Chandra Dubey said that the police were going by the family’s claims “till the accused are arrested and questioned. It doesn’t matter what the motive is,” he added. “The murder of an elected person is a very serious crime,” he said.
"All the people involved in the murder of the village head will be booked under the National Security Act (NSA) and the Gangster Act. A reward of Rs 25,000 was announced by the state government," the officer said.
Lincoln, the nephew of Pappu Ram, claimed that there were a series of heated arguments between his uncle and upper-caste people in the village ever since he assumed the post of pradhan. “My uncle was the first person from our community to have become the pradhan of this village, and upper caste people could not digest his win. They were jealous of his stature and the fact that he walked around with his head held high,” he told NewsClick.
“They murdered my uncle because Dalits raise their voice against any atrocity committed by upper-caste. We did not bow our heads before them, neither did the pradhan. They could not stand a Dalit man saying no to them," alleged Lincoln, adding that the accused would resort to casteist slurs against his uncle, Pappu Ram.
Lincoln categorically blamed Suryansh Kumar Dubey, who, he said, had been trying to force his uncle to give him a letter confirming that he resided in the village. Dubey has five other cases pending against him, including one relating where he was charged with attempting to murder a person.
Atrocities Against Dalits on the Rise in UP
According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data from 2018, in crimes against Dalits – ranging from rape, murder, violence and land-related issues – Uttar Pradesh topped the list, followed by another Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled state, Gujarat.
The National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR), which has intervened in more than 80 such cases, stressed on the need to draw the attention of enforcement authorities and the judiciary on matters of discrimination and atrocities against Dalits, especially women and children. “Dalits have been discriminated against through social boycott and physical assault. Untouchability and physical abuse have been rampant during the pandemic. It is important to highlight that Dalit lives matter in the country,” said Dalit rights activist Paul Divakar.
Speaking to NewsClick, Satish Prakash, a Dalit thinker and an associate professor of physics at Meerut University, said the state government needs to clamp down on rising atrocities against Dalits amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Uttar Pradesh police have the political patronage of the state government and criminals. They roam freely after committing crimes in the knowledge that the police won't take any action against them. This is a key reason why cases against Dalits are increasing – ranging from rape, murder, violence and land-related issues," the Dalit activist said.