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A voluntary organisation helps amplify cries for justice for the poor

A public hearing in Uttar Pradesh exposed multiple examples of injustice suffered by the poor and downtrodden. There were also some cases involving better-off and educated persons who had become victims of arbitrary actions taken by some of the powerful locals. Bharat Dogra reports

Phoola, her son Ramesh, also called Ram Babu, and her daughter, a very poor family from Sadal Singh ka Purva Village in Banda District of Uttar Pradesh, were taken as migrant workers by a contractor to work in Maletha-Majhgavanin Hamirpur District. Once there, the contractor tried to molest the young girl. When Ramesh tried to protect her, he was beaten to death. The girl was so traumatised that even now, when she is forced to speak of her brother and the incident, she sometimes faints. Their mother, Phoola is still fighting for justice. Initially, the local police would not even register an FIR; they just told her to leave.

However, things changed after the Vidyadham Samiti (VS), a voluntary body, organised a public hearing. Senior police officers have sought information on the incident from VS and, hopefully, the family will get justice. VS has won widespread appreciation for its efforts to help victims of injustice. The public hearing provided many other glimpses of the extreme injustice people in remote parts of the country suffer, and the obstacles placed on their path to justice by the rich and powerful.

Gulab Rajput came to the meeting, walking with difficulty on crutches, to recount a tragic incident. His son Vikas fell in love with a girl, but the girl’s family was not in the favour of the match. Her male relatives or their associates arranged to kill the couple, and then hung their bodies on a tree, Gulab alleged. He said the postmortem report and all other evidence pointed strongly to this being a case not of suicide but of murder, possible an honour killing. Further, Gulab said, when he was trying to get justice for his son and the girl, he was involved in a mishap that left him badly hurt. He alleged that it was not an accident but a murder attempt, to prevent him from pursuing the case. His story attracted much attention and sympathy.

Rajkamal, another person who attended the hearing, said he was part of a group of workers who had gone to Pune to work as head-loaders, but were exploited and confined. They somehow managed to escape, but could not collect their dues for the work done. Jaipal, another migrant worker, said his hand was badly injured when he was working in a factory in Haryana, and despite a long-running case, had not been able to get compensation.

Shyama from Macha Village said her family was being endlessly harassed, beaten and implicated in false cases over a dispute with close relatives, as the other party was connected to a police officer. A young man named Sandeep said he had tried to save the land meant for a school from encroachers in Baraichha Village and, for this, he was being  implicated in all sorts of cases making his life extremely difficult.

Vijay Bahadur, an activist known for fighting corruption, recounted his struggle over exposing large-scale corruption in Atarra Gramin Panchayat involving two officials, including a glaring case of an official transferring government funds to his own bank account. However, instead of action being taken against the corrupt persons, those who are fighting corruption are being harassed, he alleged.

While most cases brought up at this public hearing involved injustice suffered by the poor, there were also some cases involving better-off and educated persons who had become victims of arbitrary actions taken by some of powerful local people. Panelists, including lawyers known for helping the poor, suggested several remedial measures for the various cases taken up at this hearing.

(The writer is a senior freelance journalist based in New Delhi.)