Siyarani and Shriram Verma live in Ward No 4, Fardandees Mohalla, in the Kotwali Police Station area of Jalaun district, in Uttar Pradesh. They have been living there for generations. They are Koris – a caste listed as a Scheduled Caste (SC) in Uttar Pradesh. Their kutcha house had been in a state of disrepair for years but the family lacked the wherewithal to upgrade it. Siyarani applied for assistance under the Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana (Prime Minister Housing Scheme). The application was accepted and about six months ago, Rs 50,000 was transferred to her account as the first instalment for building a new house. Siyarani’s family moved into a rented accommodation, the old structure was pulled down and construction of a new house began.
According to Shriram Verma, “Our OBC and Brahmin neighbours, who bought the plots adjoining our home and settled down here a few years ago, could not digest this. They began creating problems for us. First, they said that bricks and sand for construction should not be unloaded on the lane. So, we had the construction material unloaded at some distance and carried them on our heads to the site. The foundation for the new house was laid.”
Siyarani’s old kutcha house stood between two roads. The main entrance into the house was from a three-foot-wide lane while the back door opened onto a 12-foot-wide main lane. Last year, when the wall at the back of the house began sinking due to heavy rains, she closed the backdoor with bricks to lend support to the wall. However, when the construction of the new pucca house began, they decided that the main door would open onto the wider lane. But the neighbours Lalluram Pathak (a retired army man) and Kamlesh Batham (a retired accountant) objected. They had a six-foot-high wall built, blocking the Kori family’s access to the wider lane.
This is nothing but brahmanical arrogance rooted in a firm belief in inequality. How can an Untouchable family be their neighbours? And even if they happen to be the neighbours, how can they live in a pucca house like theirs? Under the feudal social order that prevailed in the rural areas in the times gone by, Dalits were not allowed to sit next to non-Dalits and walk by their houses wearing footwear. Villages have yet to break free from this brahmanical mindset. But it is surprising that such things are happening even in the towns. Jaluan is a municipality. Neha Mittal is the local corporator and Naresh Soni is the ward member.
Anyway, the foundation was somehow laid and the walls came up. Next, Rs 1.5 lakh were transferred to Siyarani’s account for laying the roof. But the roof could not be laid. They hired the required machine but the Batham and Pathak families sent it back. They had already blocked off the house from the lane. The two neighbours drive their tractors and other vehicles right up to their houses but they are not letting Siyarani’s family do so. Siyarani has been visiting courts, the police station, police outposts and the offices of the DM (District Magistrate) and SDM (Sub-divisional Magistrate) seeking intervention but no help has been forthcoming. She has made written complaints to the offices of the DM and the SDM thrice and also visited the office of the Senior Superintendent of Police four or five times but nothing has moved except papers. Siyarani says a large portion of the money she received under the PM Housing Scheme has been spent on these trips to government offices.
Dalits form 75 per cent of population
In Ward Number 4, where Siyarani Verma’s family lives, 75 per cent of the population belongs to the Scheduled Castes. They include Valmiki, Dhobhi, Jatav, Kori and Bansod. The remaining 25 per cent are Savarnas, with Brahmins accounting for just 15 families. However, the Brahmins have been backing Pathak en bloc.
Siyarani names Lalluram Pathak, Rohit Pathak, Kamlesh Batham, Sandeep Batham, Sanjay Batham, Karan Batham, Anshul Batham and Shiv Balak Patham as those who have been harassing and threatening her family.
According to Siyarani Verma, Lalluram Pathak has declared that the lane is only meant for the brahmins and that they cannot use it. Her family has thus suffered for the past five months.
The Brahmin network
Siyarani Verma, 65 and Shriram Verma, 70, say that the accountant of Jalaun municipality, Vaibhav Tripathi, is Lalluram Pathak’s relative. The local SDM is Suresh Kumar Pal. The in-charge of Kotwali Police Station, Kuldeep Kumar Tiwari, is a Brahmin and the outpost in-charge Atul Kumar Rajput is also upper-caste. The Vermas say that Tiwari has been threatening to foist so many cases on them that they won’t have a moment’s respite. Women police personnel make fun of Siyarani Verma. They say that Chief Minister Saheb’s helicopter will lay the slabs for her roof.
Siyarani says that the rainy season is round the corner and their house still doesn’t have a roof. “Where will the small children of my family go? The old house has been demolished and we have no place to live in. We are not even able to buy medicines,” she says, tearing up. “We are in great trouble. I request you with folded hands to get my house built. The pandits are running the government. Neta, Kotwal, CO, SDM, DM – we have visited all of them but no one is ready to listen to us. I have been running around for six months.”
SSP passes the buck
When contacted, the SSP said that the dispute pertaining to the lane and the wall is for the revenue department to resolve. It doesn’t concern the police. If there is any illegal occupation of land and if the help of the police is sought to remove it, they will do it. But in land disputes, it is for the revenue department to decide who is the rightful owner and who isn’t.
The investigating officer has written in his report that he inspected the place and came to know that “Siyarani wife of Shriram Verma, resident of Fardandees Jalaun was getting her house constructed and that the door and grill of her house were jutting on the public thoroughfare. The residents of the Mohalla opposed this and Kamlesh Kumar and others have filed a case number 70/2023 (Kamlesh Kumar Versus Shriram Verma and others) in the court of the Civil Judge, Jalaun. It would be appropriate to take any further action in the matter only after the court’s order.”
(Translation from the original Hindi by Amrish Herdenia)
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