By Vidya Bhushan Rawat
Chhotu Mushahar, 30 years, s/o Yogendra Mushahar, was found murdered because of some dispute over a fish by the two persons of the Udaipura village in district Deoria in Uttar Pradesh, on October 28th, 2019. His dead body was found floating at the river chhoti Gandak in village Raman Chhapara which is about a kilometer from his home. The accused Lav Mishra s/o Chandra Pal Mishra and Rikesh Saini s/o Ram Ratan allegedly beat him mercilessly on the bank of river Gandak where they had asked him to get river fish for them but as Chhotu could not get enough catch he did not give anything and in the process got killed leaving behind his parents, wife Rinku and three children. Irony is that Rinku is pregnant again and the family live in a one room house that Yogendra Mushahar got. Chhotu’s father was away in Sikandarabad (Telangana) for work and rushed back to his home when he was informed about the death of his son.
The body of Chhotu was recovered on October 29th in the morning in the river as people failed to trace the body in the night and continued their effort in the morning too but it came up around 8 pm. The people found injuries in the body and bleeding on head and blood oozing out of his mouth and ear. The police came in and soon did a ‘panchnama’ of the body and took it to the District Hospital Deoria for the Post-Mortem. The doctor gave the report within an hour with his ‘finding’ that the body does not have any injury mark and the death occurred due to drowning, thus indicating categorically that it does not consider any foul play or murder of Chhotu, instead, he died himself. Frankly speaking, most of the time, when a Mushahar or any other Dalit is murdered, the cases are rarely filed and blame is on the individual only. The cause of death which is often ‘accepted’ by people is ‘drinking’ or some old ghost of river responsible for the death. In the case of Chhotu, initially, it was spread that he was drunk but the post mortem report too does not indicate anything.
I had written the initial report after meeting the family and visiting the village Udaipura which falls under Thana Kotwali, Deoria district. https://countercurrents.org/2019/11/dalit-man-killed-by-upper-caste-in-uttar-pradesh on November 2nd, 2019.
A more detailed report of mine was also published in Hindi by many online portals.
Additional District Magistrate’s Findings: For last one and a half decade, this organization has worked for the uplift of Mushahar community and mobilized them. Its coordinator Ms. Sangeeta Kushwaha was trying to help the community from the day one. She accompanied them to all the relevant officials but nothing moved. Finally, district Magistrate Amit Kishore ordered an inquiry by Additional District Magistrate Rakesh Kumar visited the village Udaipura and conducted his inquiry meeting the victim’s family as well as other villagers. ADM Rakesh Kumar submitted his report no 3071/aa.li-2019) on November 30th, 2019 to District Magistrate Shri Amit Kishore. His report acknowledged Social Development Foundation’s request for the inquiry. Based on his inquiry after meeting villagers as well as parents and wife of Chhotu Mushahar, ADM noted that Chhotu died because of terrible beating by rods, stones and bricks by Rikesh Saini, s/o Ram Ratan and Lav Mishra s/o Chandra Pal Mishra. Chhotu got injured and then was pushed into the river where he died of drowning. It was a well-known fact that Chhotu and for that matter, most of the Mushahars know swimming as fishing is a life line for them. Perhaps he died because he was injured and hence could not swim. He could have survived if he was not pushed into the river. ADM report noted that the information of Chhotu’s disappearance was given to the local police Thana but police did not register the FIR. The Panchnama of the dead body of Chhotu was not carried out in the presence of Chhotu’s family, said ADM’s finding. Instead police took over the body, misbehaved with the wife of Chhotu and got the Post Mortem of the dead body without engaging or taking into confidence the family members. The report further opines after speaking to the Police Chowki in charge Jeetendra Kumar Tiwari that there is a lack of action on part of police officer as they failed to respond to the various complains by Chhotu Mushahar’s family. How can police not file FIR and take the matter seriously when all the people, family members of the dead and villagers are openly suggesting that Chhotu Mushahar was beaten up. The ADM report put the chowki in charge of the Karndi police station district Deoria under suspicion but it looks no action has been taken against him.
The ADM report categorically states that prima facie there is an absolute negligence on part of the police.
Police FIR and dereliction: Even after the ADM Rakesh Kumar’s report indicating police inaction and his suspicion on local police inspector for ignoring the pleas for FIR, there has not been any action against the said police in charge of the Chowki. Police did not want to file the FIR under the SC-ST Prevention of Atrocities Act 1989 (amended 2015) but they had no option after the ADM Rakesh Kumar’s report but resisted at all level that they can’t file a case under 302 but under 304. Finally, they filed FIR on December 5th, 2019 nearly after 40 days of the incident. The FIR filed under SC-ST Act section 3(2)V and section 304 of IPC 1860.
Caste domination of the Brahmins visible
Actually, the main accused in the case is belong to the Brahmin community as well as Saini (OBC) community but there is a well-known fact that police tried to protect them. They are roaming in the village and are said to be in touch with the police.
Chhotu Mushahar’s parents told me that they are receiving threat from the family of Lav Mishra and their sympathisers that if he goes to jail, he will definitely teach them a lesson after he is released. Chhotu’s parents have withdrawn their grandchildren from the school out of fear. They are pained and agonized. His father Yogendra Prasad, is a rarity among the Mushahar community who qualified intermediate and was working outside. Even Chhotu used to do painting work in Chennai but he was called by his father a few months back as his father felt that both Secundarabad and Chennai were far away for them and hence they had decided to move to Ranchi. Both had thought that they would be working together and was easier for them to be at their home. Chhotu was the only earning member other than his father.
The Mushahar bastis are normally isolated huts. The caste system works so powerful that no other community persons ever visited to their home. The village Sarpanch is a woman belonging to Chamar community who are the most visible and numerically powerful among the Dalits but she too did not bother too much. Villagers accuse her of being pawn in the hands of the powerful communities. Chhotu’s father accuses both the chowki in charge as well as the doctor who performed Post Mortem were bribed to destroy the cases. He fears that the witnesses might be allured as they are too poor and police delay in filing and investigating the case will hurt it. So far, he is thoroughly disappointed as he has not received a single rupee of compensation from the government.
No Support as Rinku stares at uncertain future : Till today, Chotu Mushahar’s family who are an absolutely landless family and living in one room kuchha house allotted to Yogendra Mushahar, have not got any compensation. Authorities promised but nothing happened. Even under the SC-ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, the victim family are supposed to get compensation to support the basic needs of the family. Under the law the compensation must be paid within the seven days of the incident happen but, in this case, we can still think that the date of filing of FIR, which is December 5th, 2019 but so far not a single penny, has been transferred. It is sad that for every small thing, the officials are being reminded of their duties. The details of Bank account, Aadhar card and other things have already been furnished to the authorities. The officials need to explain why the delay and except for the ADM Mr. Rakesh Kumar, no other official ever bothered to visit the family and assure them justice. The family face threat as the accused and their families continue to threaten them and environment in the village is still of fear. As his mother cries for justice, Yogendra Mushahars says he is tired of going pillar to post, it is Chhotu’s wife Rinku, with three kids and one more to arrive, who is staring at an uncertain future. She was actually married to Chhotu’s elder brother who died and the family felt the need of keeping her in the family and got her married to Chhotu. Sadly, for her, Chhotu too has now died and the family too has lost everything. They don’t have any other except than the children of Chhotu. We hope that the family will remain close together and official will provide her necessary support so that she can live a dignified life and take care of her family.
You can watch my interview with Yogendra Mushahar, father of Chhotu Mushahar here :