Punish the guilty
The Pioneer Edit Desk
It is hardly surprising that the murder of five members of a Dalit family in Hasnapur village in Uttar Pradesh's Fatehpur district on Sunday, has sent waves of shock and revulsion throughout India.
Even in this country, which has seen numerous and unspeakable acts of violence against Dalits, the incident stands out for its sheer savagery. First, an 18-month-old infant was snatched from his mother's lap, struck with lathis and had his head smashed against the road. As the mother, Kamla, and her father, Kallu, watched helplessly, her six-year-old daughter was killed with lathis. Then her 12-year-old daughter, Lalita, was raped in her presence and bludgeoned to death. Earlier, Kamla's mother, Tejania, and sister-in-law, Jagpatia, were killed in the field where they were working. As shocking as the killings, however, were the circumstances in which these occurred and the role of the local police and the district administration. By all accounts, the killings were perpetrated and organised by a Thakur family to give vent to their anger against the Dalit family which had dared to lodge a complaint against it under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and had refused to withdraw its FIR. The local police station, where the FIR had been lodged, should have anticipated trouble after the recent murder of five Dalits by Thakurs in Aligarh district and the burning of a 45-year-old Dalit woman in Jalaun district. That the crime still occurred shows either that the feedback system of the policemen is useless-which is why they were unaware of the developments leading to the murders-or that they were hand-in-glove with the killers, in which case their crime was as henious as that of the latter.
The State Government has doubtless paid the family compensation totalling Rs 5.25 lakh for the dead. That, however, would neither bring the dead back to life, nor mitigate the immensity of the crime or ensure punishment to the guilty, none of whom has been arrested till the time of writing. The Government of Uttar Pradesh has a responsibility to bring them to justice and reassure the Dalits of the village that they will be fully protected if they come forward to give evidence. Kamla's husband is a constable in the Border Security Force and is posted in Jammu & Kashmir. Criminals who inflict such terrible tragedy on the families of the defenders of our borders must not get away. Equally, the State Government must take strong action against the local administration. If the role of the police station concerned was disgraceful, no less so was that of the district magistrate and the district police chief who refused to hand over the bodies to Kallu and had them unceremoniously thrown into the Ganga when they heard that Ms Mayavati was coming to visit the village after hearing about the crime. The UP Government must order a time-bound inquiry into the administration's role in the entire matter and dispense exemplary punishment to whoever is found guilty.