Sunday, June 14, 2009

Murder Management In India's Village Republics

By Manuwant Choudhary

What I write today is not about the debate whether or not Bihar is India's crime capital, but rather something more shocking - Murder Management!

A young man Navin Kumar Choudhary from my village in Keonta goes to give dinner to his ailing father Shashibhushan Choudhary in Dalsingsarai, Samastipur, and as he returns home to his village something terrible happens that night.

Early the next morning pasersby discover his body...some eyewitnesses say they saw some bruises on his face, others say there was a bottle of poison ..still others..just alcohol - in any case its an unnatural death.

The body is identified by the villagers and his kin informed.

As it turns out the police are not seen anywhere...the villagers take the body and along with the family members the last rites are performed - the body cremated.

I was in Patna when all this happens but just out of curiosity when I inquired whether or not the police were informed and a post-mortem conducted on the body to find out the cause of death, I was told the villagers had `managed' the police.

Rather, managed the suspected murder.

How did they do this? Why just a few phone calls to the police station was enough.

Now every village has two chowkidaars plus other informers but even they did not inform the police. Everybody feasted and kept silent.

So I approached the Dalsingsarai DSP - a Mr. Sharma.

Me, "Sir, do you know about the death of Navin Choudhary, son of Shashibhushan Choudhary, and whether the Dalsingsarai police have a case?"

Mr. Sharma tells me he has not heard of it but he enquires from the local police station and he confirms there is no case.

He then directs me to meet the police station inspector who also says he has received no such complaint. "The police can act only if someone compliants."

I offer to complain. But he says, "It would be better if a family member complains." He quotes High Court cases where the locus standi of the complainant is important. "There are so many deaths taking place. Do we probe every one of them.?"

But even after 11 days the family members have not complained, I said.

So as a citizen I filed an FIR of suspected murder and that the police must probe the case and at the same time provide protection to the kin of the dead.

I am not sure anything will come of this case but what I find shocking is how even families of victims can be silenced by fear.

Silence Kills.

Its not a one-off case.

Last year a woman was tried by a local panchayat and beaten publicly for stealing some maize from a field.

The woman writes a letter saying she is committing suicide because of the humiliation she faced and gives this letter to her young daughter to give it to the husband.

As news spread of the woman's death, the panchayat members took charge and even took away the letter.

The lady was buried by a lake (instead of being cremated) and the husband kept silent.

The husband hoped he would get some monetary compensation but when he did not get it, he filed a police complaint.

The police recovered the body from near the lake which was surprisingly intact because of its proximity to the water body.

The body was sent for post-mortem and the poison confirmed. The letter was also found.

And so the panchayat member was sent to prison.

India's panchayati raj can be evil.

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