The Kaushambi Tragedy: Caste Mindset, Property Dispute or State Apathy?

The land-related tensions have simmered for years, exacerbated by the unequal distribution of land leased to Dalits. The victim's family demands justice and assistance, including a fast-track court trial, land lease, government grants for weddings, jobs, arms licenses, and financial aid. The District Magistrate has taken some initial steps to address their demands.
Many houses stood desolate, their occupants forced to flee, leaving their assets behind.
Many houses stood desolate, their occupants forced to flee, leaving their assets behind.

Kaushambi-Casteism, deeply entrenched in the social fabric of India, continues to cast a long and dark shadow over the lives of its citizens. In the village of Mohideenpur, nestled in the heartland of Uttar Pradesh, this malevolent force manifested itself in a gruesome manner. The recent triple murder of a Dalit family in Mohideenpur is not an isolated incident but rather a painful chapter in a larger narrative of caste-based discrimination and violence that has plagued the nation for generations.

This tragedy harks back to the year 2012 when a teenager lost his life under brutal circumstances. Accused of stealing sugarcane, he was mercilessly beaten to death, marking the inception of a cycle of atrocities against his family. Fast forward to the present, and we see that this cycle culminated in the tragic demise of three more members of the same Dalit family. The root cause, a festering property dispute fuelled by caste-based tensions, demonstrates the persistence of deeply ingrained prejudices that continue to claim the lives of Dalit individuals.

Many houses stood desolate, their occupants forced to flee, leaving their assets behind.
Rising Dalit Atrocities: Brutal Family Killing in Kaushambi Sparks Outrage

The Triple Murder

Three members of a Dalit family in Kaushambi were shot dead while they were sleeping outside their hut early on Friday morning, allegedly over a property dispute. Soon after the incident, the relatives of the victims went on a rampage, setting ablaze the houses of the alleged accused, who are on the run.

The incident took place in Mohideenpur village, which falls under the jurisdiction of Sandeepan Ghat police station. The police identified the victims as Hori Lal, 62, a farmer, his daughter Brijkali, 22, and son-in-law Shiv Saran, 26. Brijkali was seven months pregnant. The accused, who belong to the Other Backward Classes category, are Hori Lal’s neighbours, the police said. According to the police, Hori Lal and his neighbour were involved in a dispute over a piece of land for the last few years. Hori Lal allegedly built a hut on the disputed land, and his daughter and her husband stayed there. Shivsaran used to run a shop near the disputed land.

Approximately 50 houses were ruthlessly vandalized, and some were even set ablaze.
Approximately 50 houses were ruthlessly vandalized, and some were even set ablaze.

Tragedy Strikes Again: A Decade After Teenager's Death

According to family members, in 2012, a minor Dalit teenager from the same family was beaten to death on charges of stealing sugarcane. Members of the family had started living in the village on the land occupied by the accused. This is an upper-caste dominated area, and houses of people from the Yadav community are also present. However, the deceased were allegedly harassed due to being members of the Pasi community.

Angry people entered the houses of accused, vandalized them, and set them on fire. All the houses in the village are now vacant, and there is no one to provide fodder to the animals. Everyone is absconding. In this case, the police have named eight people based on the complaint of the victim's family, and two have been arrested. The district administration has also provided financial assistance of Rs 12 lakh to the victim's family.

Burnt books in one of the homes in the village
Burnt books in one of the homes in the village

The Mooknayak reached the spot in Kaushambi, about 180 km from Lucknow, where the incident took place.

This village lies about 35 km from Manjhanpur, the district headquarters of Kaushambi. This area is called Chail. The team of The Mooknayak reached Mohaddinpur by passing through the road going from Muratganj intersection of Sandipanghat police station area towards Harraipur village in the Chail area. This path leads to Kurai Ghat. After walking about 10 km, Mohaddinpur Government ITI College is seen situated on the left side. This entire disputed land is situated right in front of it. After coming down the road on the right side from Mohaddinpur intersection, about 200 meters away, there is a large piece of land lying adjacent to a road. Jayakaran Dairy is present just opposite this land. Planting was visible behind this land and towards ITI College.

When The Mooknayak spoke to the villagers, it was learned that Horilal (62) and his family live in Chhabilwa, about 2 km away from Mohaddinpur village.

Horilal has four sons and four daughters. Horilal was a member of the Scheduled Tribe (Pasi community). Horilal's son Subhash told The Mooknayak - 'The accused have been harassing us for a long time. In 2012, my younger brother Magan was beaten up on charges of sugarcane theft. We did not make any complaint at that time. When he got injured, he was treated in the hospital. After six months, his brain injury turned into cancer and he died. During this time, we had a clash with Guddu and others. My mother sustained injuries in the scuffle. The sister who died had an injury on her nose. A case has been registered in this case under SC and ST sections. My father was the main witness in this case. His final testimony was to take place on 16 September. "

The Victims

Horilal, a resident of Chhabilwa village, had three sons: Suresh Kumar, Subhash, and Dilip, and four daughters: Guddi, Suman, Brijrani, and Surajkali, respectively. Two years ago, after the marriage of Brijrani, when the son-in-law along with his wife started living in the neighboring village Mohiuddin, he also came here. The land on which the son-in-law lived in a hut could not be constructed due to a dispute. Brijrani was an ASHA worker and was posted in Muratganj CHC. Her brother Suresh told that the sister was seven months pregnant. It was the couple's first child.

How casteism claimed three lives?

Araji number 344 is situated in Mohiuddinpur Gaus village of Chail tehsil. According to the villagers, incidents of scuffles over possession of land took place frequently, but murder happened for the first time. After the incidents, the police either took preventive action or hushed up the matter.

According to the villagers, Araji number 344 is outside the settlement. The land, with an area of 52 bighas, has been in the possession of the Chauhan and Yadav communities for a long time. About 20 years ago, the former heads and authorities conspired and gave the lease on paper in the name of the poor but gave possession only to the Chauhan and Yadav communities. An ITI has been constructed near this land, significantly increasing the land's value.

Following the tragic incident, the community was consumed by anger and frustration, questioning why rightful possession had not been granted despite the lease agreements. The residents were bewildered by the fact that the lease documents for the houses constructed by the Chauhan and Yadav communities bore names different from those who were actually residing there. This discrepancy exposed the unlawful occupation of land originally allocated to the Pasi community, raising doubts about the fairness of land distribution and the extent of influence wielded by the Yadavs and Thakurs in the area.

Additional forces deployed in the area to prevent any untoward incident.
Additional forces deployed in the area to prevent any untoward incident.

Lal Chandra Nirmal secured a lease for 10 biswa of land on September 13, 2009, with aspirations of becoming a farmer. He earnestly began cultivating the land a year later, on September 15, 2010. However, his health took a toll, compelling him to abandon his farming endeavors and seek refuge at his relatives' home. As the land he rightfully leased came under encroachment, Lal Chandra took his concerns to the authorities, prompting a temporary cessation of the unlawful occupation.

Unfortunately, this reprieve was short-lived, as the accused individuals resumed their encroachment activities. Lal Chandra, unable to protect his land, ultimately had no choice but to sell it to Shiv Saran.

The villagers, exasperated by this ongoing situation, implored the administration for one simple request—to bring bulldozers and dismantle the illegal constructions that plagued their land. They alleged that individuals from various sectors, including consolidation, administration, and the police, were involved and appeared to prioritize personal gains over justice. While numerous disputes over land had erupted in the past, the police's response was typically limited to dispersing the crowds or attempting to quell the tensions, leaving the underlying issues unaddressed.

Eerie silence envelope the village

The heart-wrenching account shared by the victim's family with The Mooknayak reveals the poignant reality of their shattered dreams. Shivsaran, along with his wife Brijkali, eagerly anticipated the arrival of their little guest, as Brijkali was seven months pregnant. Their home was filled with dreams of a brighter future, now forever marred by tragedy.

In the wake of the violence that erupted following the incident, an eerie silence enveloped the village, marking a stark contrast to the once-thriving community. The aftermath of this turmoil left in its wake a trail of devastation. Approximately 50 houses were ruthlessly vandalized, and some were even set ablaze. The vehicles parked outside these homes lay in charred ruins, while shops were reduced to ashes. Many houses stood desolate, their occupants forced to flee, leaving their homes behind.

One particularly heart-wrenching consequence of this turmoil was the plight of the animals left behind. As violence erupted, people abandoned their homes, leaving their cattle tied up and without anyone to care for them. Cows, buffaloes, and their vulnerable young offspring were left exposed to the scorching sun, with hunger and thirst gnawing at them.

The individuals accused in this tragic incident, as documented in the FIR obtained by The Mooknayak, include Guddu Yadav, Amar Singh, Amit Singh, Arvind Singh, Anuj Singh, Rajendra Singh, Suresh, and Ajit. As of now, the police have taken action and successfully arrested Amar Singh and Amit Singh, while efforts are ongoing to apprehend the remaining six suspects.

In response to the grievous loss suffered by the victim's family, they have put forth several demands to seek justice and support. Subhash, a member of the affected family, conveyed their requests to The Mooknayak. These demands include the following:

  1. Fast-Track Court Trial: The family urges that the entire case be expedited and heard in a fast-track court, ensuring swift justice.

  2. Land Lease: They seek the allocation of land on lease, addressing the property-related issues that have plagued their community.

  3. Government Grants for Marriage: The family requests government grants to support the marriages of two brothers within the family.

  4. Government Jobs: They ask for government employment opportunities to provide economic stability.

  5. Arms Licenses: The family requests licenses for arms, possibly as a measure to ensure their safety and protection.

  6. Financial Assistance of Rs. 1 Crore: A substantial financial assistance of one crore rupees is demanded to help the family recover from this tragedy.

Additionally, they seek support for their elderly mother, possibly in the form of an old-age pension scheme.

The District Magistrate, Sanjeet Kumar, has responded to these demands by taking some initial steps. Arms licenses, government jobs, grants for marriage, and financial assistance as per the SC/ST Act's ex-gratia provisions have been extended to Dilip Kumar and three other individuals. Furthermore, the District Magistrate has expressed his commitment to writing a letter to the government, urging them to provide one crore rupees and the benefits available under the SC/ST Act to the affected family.

Story Translated by Geetha Sunil Pillai

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