New Delhi: The rampant use of the draconian National Security Act (NSA) by the Uttar Pradesh government, which is being used a weapon for harassment, has consumed one more life in the state.
In an incident that went largely unreported nearly a month ago, a dalit man allegedly committed suicide by consuming poison in Shabbirpur village under Badgaon police station of Saharanpur district. His family family members claimed that he was depressed over not being able to produce himself in the court regularly.
"Sonu was booked under several charges of Indian Penal Code (IPC) including 302, 307 and National Security Act (NSA) in the connection with Saharanpur caste violence, which took place on May 5, 2017. On the same day, he was arrested by the local police and was sent to the jail in Deoband. Sonu was in jail for 18 months for a crime he never committed,” said the family, which claimed that he was in depression because of courts' daily hearing.
“Sonu used to work in someone else's farm. There was no money to feed the children. In such a state, he had to visit the court in Saharanpur and Deoband thrice a week. He has left behind five daughters, with the younger one just one-and-a-half months old," Harish Kumar, Sonu’s elder brother told Newsclick.
Kumar said Sonu took his life by consuming poison on October 30. “That day too, he went to the Deoband for hearing. After returning, he consumed poison and died,” adding that “apart from grave charges like NSA, the reason behind the suicide is police’s consistent harassment.”
“When Sonu was alive, local police used to come to our house every day and harrass him despite the fact that he spent 18 months in jail. Ironically, Sonu's name was in the ‘unknown’ list of FIRs and he was booked under NSA," his brother said.
Sonu’s sister, Aruna, told NewsClick, "Us din bhi Sonu court ki hearing ke liye par Deoband gaye the, kisi ko nahi pata tha ki wo zeher kha ke lautennge (even that day Sonu went to Deoband for court's hearing, no one knew that he would return after consuming poison). He had poison on his way back home.”
She claimed that a few hours after Sonu landed up at home, he started vomiting, sweating and complaining about pain. “We took him to the hospital and he died on the way," she said.
When asked for the reason behind the suicide, Aruna said, "His earnings were not so much and he had to go to court every alternate day or thrice a week to Saharanpur and Deoband. Whenever he was unable to go for court's hearings, a warrant would come from the court. He was very upset."
Aruna said that day “when Sonu's health started deteriorating, he whispered in his mother's ears that he had consumed poison because he has no courage to go on court's hearing.”
THE SHABBIRPUR VIOLENCE
Shabbirpur, a small village in Saharanpur district of Western Uttar Pradesh, witnessed large-scale caste-related violence on the morning of May 5, 2017. On that day, a group belonging to dominant Thakur community was carrying out a procession to commemorate the birth anniversary of Maharana Pratap. When the procession was passing by a small dalit hamlet, some members of the dalit community objected to the loud music that was being played during the procession.
The two groups then started throwing stones at each other. One member of the Thakur community died in the ensuing violence. Soon after, thousands of members from the Thakur community surrounded houses belonging to those from the Dalit community in Shabbirpur. They beat up the inhabitants and burnt down 55 homes of dalits. Later, police brutally cracked down on protesting dalits in the district.
Four days after the violence, on May 9, 2017, several dalit youths under the supervision of the then lesser known Bhim Army, a dalit social organisation, called for a protest against the violence in Shabbirpur. Though the police denied them permission, several young members of the community gathered and clashed with the police. Some vehicles were set ablaze, stones were pelted and a police post was damaged. Cases were registered against almost every known member of the outfit,
Along with Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad, two others --Shivkumar and Sonu - had been booked under NSA for their alleged role in the violence that took place in Shabbirpur.
NewsClick tried reaching the Badgaon police station for their comment but the calls were unanswered.
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