Manusmriti Prevails in Mayawati’s Sarvajan Raj

- Ramayan Ram

He is fulfilling his jatigat kartavya (caste obligation).’ – that’s what the President of the BSP Pratapgarh Unit said when asked about the local Brahmin BSP MLA who had harboured (in his own home) the killer of a Dalit college student (reported in Tehelka, 25 August 2007).

The Manusmriti decreed that if a dalit were to recite the Vedas, his tongue must be cut off, if he dared to listen to a recitation of the Vedas, molten metal be poured into his ears. Mythology tells us that Shambuk had his head cut off for daring to recite the Vedas. Ekalavya’s teacher demanded his thumb. Education, for dalits in the age of Manu, was punishable with humiliating mutilation – then death.  

In the 60th year of Independent India, in the state ruled by India’s first dalit Chief Minister, the Manusmriti with its regime of ‘caste obligations’ and brutal caste punishments seems to be alive and well.

Chakrasen’s eyes held dreams of college and career. According to the feudal goons of his village, his eyes had no right to house such dreams. They didn’t just kill him. They first punished his temerity by smashing that eye that dared to dream of education.  

Lucknow, the capital of UP, sports huge hoardings of a smiling Mayawati, assuring dignity, security, rights and employment for dalits, poor and women in the state. To dalits in UP, this government appeared to be an answer to the unanswered questions of centuries, as for the first time a Chief Minister of dalit origin rode to power on her own strength. Many dalit ideologues have already declared governmental power to be the key to open all locks, and in UP Mayawati’s miraculous makeover (Bahujan to Sarvajan) was even theorised as a feat of ‘social-engineering’ forging dalit-Brahmin unity to bring dalits to power.

However, the dreams of dignity fostered by the BSP victory are receiving a rude shock as the roaring success of ‘Sarvajan’ social engineering reaps a bitter harvest. Let us travel some 150 kilometres away from the state capital, in Bhadevra village of Pratapgarh district, where lie the ruins of the shattered dreams of Chakrasen’s family.

Chakrasen graduated from Allahabad University this year and also qualified for the state level Engineering Entrance Examination. He was soon to join an Engineering College in Noida. However a different destiny awaited him in his own village. On August 1, when he was out for a morning run, Santosh Mishra, Akash Dubey and their friends caught hold of him, took him some 2 kilometres away to Sudemau. There he was tied up and beaten mercilessly, and his eyes gouged out before he was killed. The brutal murder took place at six in the morning, but the police registered a report at seven in the evening, and that too under pressure from outraged protestors. The police first lodged the report under article 304 i.e. culpable homicide not amounting to murder. It was only two days later, when the incident had been reported in the media, that Article 302 was added. To add insult to injury, the local BSP MLA Ram Shiromani Shukla offered Rs. 500 to Chakrasen’s widowed mother for his last rituals - which she refused.

On August 8, an investigation team of AISA and PUHR visited the spot and met the members of the bereaved family as well as other villagers. Till then none of the assailants had been arrested, and the media in UP too had barely taken notice of the gruesome crime. It was Khairlanji all over again but this time in the dalit CM’s regime. The BSP MLA in order to save his caste and kinsmen, had not only kept the murderers in his protection, he had pressurised the local administration not to arrest the accused. Family members too were being threatened to keep silence.

Why was Chakrasen eliminated? Recently, his grandfather Shiv Murat (Chakrasen lost his father in 1992) was allotted a quota for distribution of ration and kerosene in the village. Feudal goons made illegal demands for ration and kerosene from the quota shop, which Shivmurat refused to oblige. Obviously, being an educated and self-respecting young man Chakrasen was the main source of strength for the family in this battle. His success in the B. Tech examination was the last straw for the feudal forces. The thwarted feudal goons led by Santosh Mishra told his grandfather several months ago, “You’ve educated your son quite a bit, but it won’t be of any use to you” – and Shivmurat reported this death threat to the DM, the SP and the local thana.

Agnisen, Chakrasen’s brother, told our investigation team that after the formation of Mayawati Government, his family felt reassured that with ‘Behenji’ in power, Mishra and his cohorts would not dare to implement the threats.

AISA activists encouraged the villagers to express their outrage and protest in a novel way. On August 15, Chakrasen’s family and others in the dalit basti did not hoist the tricolour. Instead, they hoisted black flags on their homes – as a mark of the darkness which continued to dog the dalits even after 60 years of freedom. This protest got a huge coverage in the media, and only then did the administration came under pressure. On the orders of the Police Superintendent, Santosh Mishra was finally arrested - from none other than the BSP MLA’s house where he had found shelter! Later the other accused were also arrested.

Bhadevra has split wide open the reassuring myth of dignity and security for dalits in Mayawati’s rule. It’s time for dalits to demand a reply – and to make Behenji and her BSP pay dearly for their betrayal.