Thursday, September 23, 2004

Pay up for the wheat ... then starve (upper caste thuggery in Madhya Pradesh)

Santosh Singh in Bhopal

Sept. 22. – "Gokul villages" and such schemes as Panch-J may showcase rural development in Babulal Gaur’s MP. But the chief minister isn’t even dimly aware of the fact that a Saharia tribal and his family in Shivpuri district are on the verge of starvation because of exploitation in the hands of an upper caste Thakur.

A tribal named Brijlal has had to part with 16 bighas of land, his family’s only source of income, as a form of repayment for do paseri (10 kg) of wheat he had borrowed eight years ago to perform the last rites of his father. And incidentally, Shivpuri is represented by the Gwalior princess, Yashodhara Raje Scindia.

Brijlal’s ordeal had started since the day he borrowed the wheat from Thakur Babu Raja. To settle the dues, all eight members of his family were made to work in the Thakur’s fields for a whole year. But even that wasn’t enough to settle the Thakur’s claim. He then forced Brijlal to hand over the 16 bighas he had inherited.

Faced with death threats, Brijlal had to leave Bapawali village with his family. They have sought refuge in the neighbouring Himmatpur village and are wholly dependent on the pittance of relatives and friends.

In a desperate attempt to seek justice, Brijlal has approached the sarpanch, patwari, thanedar, even the collector. As misfortune would have it, he has drawn a blank at all levels of the district administration.

Quoting the rulebook, the police post at Bhiti registered a complaint, but not an FIR on land usurpation. The village sarpanch didn’t have the nerve to confront the Thakur. When the then collector, Mr Muktesh Basne, wanted to know the details, the maximum the patwari could do was to produce a copy of Brijlal’s complaint letter. As yet, the present collector, Dr M Gita, has not been able to go through the details of the case. “I got to know about it only four days ago. I have asked the sub-divisional magistrate to submit a report within a week,” she said. She declined comment, stating that the case would come under the purview of Section 420 of the IPC.

Source: The Statesman, September 23, 2004

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