REPORTS & ESSAYS
8-Year-Old Jaunpur Child Loses Hand in Caste Atrocity
The Uttar Pradesh government must respond to the horrendous case of atrocity inflicted on a dalit child in Jaunpur.
It was 9 AM on the morning of December 28. Jamuna Devi and her husband Mahendra Gautam had gone out for their usual daily wage work in Maharajganj block of district Jaunpur, Uttar Pradesh. Eight year old Shivam did not go to school that day. His five year old sister stayed with him at their nondescript residence. The family belongs to the Chamar community, one of the biggest communities among dalits in UP, and is absolutely landless, with no way to survive except by working as agricultural labour at different places.
Jaunpur is a very violent zone in terms of violence against dalits, with brahmins, Rajputs and Yadavs being the dominant communities and landowners in the region. Dalits work as agricultural workers here. In the nearby region, there are brick kilns as well as the carpet industry of Varanasi and Bhadohi. Hence, child and bonded labour are quite common here. Any resistance to this system is met with violent, life-threatening oppression. Varanasi is merely 50 kilometres from Jaunpur, while Allahabad is nearly 60 kilometres, but Maharajganj is much closure to district Pratapgarh – feudalism is still prevalent in the entire belt.
At around 9 AM in the morning, Radhey Shyam Tiwari and Vijay Nath Tiwari s/o Ganga Prasad Tiwari, from village Gaura Khurd, Maharajganj, came along with Sudhansu and Ankit (both from the Tiwari family) to pick up Shivam alias Photo, to work at their sugarcane crusher machine. Shivam did not want to go there, but he was slapped and abused. He remained there for a few minutes before running off to the nearby locality of the barber community at the first opportunity, but the Tiwari goons ran after him and traced his location. They beat up the boy again, hurled the filthiest caste abuses at him, and threatened him with dire consequences if he refused to work. The innocent child was not interested, and was beaten up for his reluctance. They threatened him again, this time saying that if he did not work they would throw him into the machine. When the little boy did not budge from his stance the Tiwaris forcibly threw him onto the crusher machine, which resulted in his hand getting caught.
The boy cried in pain, but there was no one around to rescue him. Screaming in pain, the braveheart somehow tried to run but fell unconscious. Some people heard the noise and the boy’s scream, and informed the family, who rushed to the house of Radhey Shyam Tiwari. The Tiwaris, meanwhile, ran away from the spot. The family then took the child to the Maharajganj police station, where the police officers refused to file an FIR, instead contemptuously rebuking the family. Frightened and worried they had no hope left, their focus shifted to saving their child.
There was no government hospital available that could take the case on, hence the only option for the family was to look for a private clinic. At such a clinic in Machhlishahar, the doctor informed them that the boy had lost his hand and it had to be amputated. For the child and the family it was a most traumatic thing, but we know the family in this case can’t even express their pains and agonies. If this case had happened in any urban area and with any caste family, our TV channels would have repeatedly aired it and the brutality of the culprit, but here, nothing happened except for a few local papers carrying the story in their local editions, like any other crime news. Sadly, there is no one to support the family. The Tiwaris have made it difficult for them to even move out of their little home. They don’t have any resource to even run here or there, leave alone spending so much money on the treatment of the innocent child.
It is shameful that the administration did not take note of this incident despite requests—it shows how difficult it is for a dalit family without land or political connections to get justice in India. The family, whose members struggle for their daily earning, is paying the price of facing with honour the caste oppression which Indian caste Hindus feel is their fundamental right and duty.
After many efforts by two hard working social activists from Jaunpur, Ms Shobhna Smriti and Renu Singh, the Maharajganj police registered the FIR on January 19, 2016. The case was registered under sections 326/323/504 of the IPC and 3(1)X of the SC-ST act. So far no arrest has been made.
The case is a typical example of how the police administration in this country works – where the police does not file FIR of the landless dalit family whose child has lost his hand in the sugarcane crusher of the Tiwari family, who is influential and uses bonded labour to further its work. There is no history of Shivam ever having worked there, but as a rule in the villages, these feudal lords come to the dalit bastis and ask for any child to be taken to work at their crushers. Because the adults too go to work as agricultural labours in their fields, the owners feel that they can take anyone from their families according to their whims and fancies.
While the case is filed under various sections and SC-ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, we need to ask as to what punishment the police officials should get for delaying the progress of the case. We know that in the absence of a medical from the government hospital (the child is being treated at a private nursing home) the case may fall flat. The police does this deliberately so that, later, when the case comes to trial there may be no conviction. The brahminical mind-sets in the Indian administration are doing everything to foil the modern constitution of Baba Saheb Ambedkar so that the poor and the helpless don’t get any justice.
It is important, therefore, that the Uttar Pradesh government suspend the police officials of Maharajganj police station for not filing the FIR on time, and help the poor family which does not have money to survive. We don’t know how long the case will take, but what happens to the child? Who will take care of his expenses? Can we give hope to his family? If yes, how?
The National Human Rights Commission and the National Scheduled Castes Commission must take suo moto cognisance of the case and ask the UP government to explain its glaring lack of duty towards such families. Why should such officials not be dismissed outright for dereliction of their duty?
Shivam is just eight years old. He has a younger sister who is five years of age. Can we imagine how much the pain he might be going through at his age? The bold boy is fighting, but the parents have no resources on their own. The state and its apparatus have failed to protect them. It has even failed to ensure justice on time – resulting in the loss of his left hand.
Who will compensate Shivam for his loss? How long will India tolerate such caste brutalities? For how long will we continue to sing hosannas for our ‘tolerance’ and great culture? We need answers to these questions. In the meanwhile, I request friends to file a case based on it, so that the family get justice. The big focus should be severe punishment to the Tiwaris who were responsible for inflicting this inhuman crime on the innocent child. We hope the police will investigate the matter in good faith and will not try to shield the culprit; for that, the entire police station personnel need to be suspended or transferred. How will the same police people investigate impartially a matter they did not record at the first place?
The second, and perhaps, more important, is the rehabilitation and treatment of the child. His family must be compensated fully, and the child must be taken care of properly so that he can go to school and study without any prejudices.
Political parties, as usual, have not spoken on the issue. They do not speak unless it becomes a media event. We request friends to draw a petition based on this article and write to the NHRC and other such bodies, including UP Chief Minister Mr Akhilesh Yadav, to act fast on the issue.
Donate to the Indian Writers' Forum, a public trust that belongs to all of us.