Uttar Pradesh may be ruled by a Dalit Chief Minister but poor Dalits in the state's rural areas continue to suffer under the oppression of upper caste politicians. One such case is that of a 50-year old dalit Budhai Ram of Sidhauli village in Sitapur district, 80 kilometres from Lucknow.
Budhai Ram apparently made the mistake of filing a Right to Information petition at the office of the Sitapur district magistrate seeking details of sub-standard building material in the construction of government buildings in his village by contractors.
He received no reply to his petition. What he did receive, he alleges, were threats from the Chairman of the Sidhauli nagar panchayat, an upper-caste politician considered close to a top-leader of the ruling BSP. He says he was asked to stop his enquiries and keep his mouth shut.
The leader's henchmen offered him a "settlement" but when he approached the state Lok Ayukta with a complaint of corruption, they attacked him and his wife.
"On May 15 this year, body of my five-year old daughter was found in the pool of my village. I was threatened that I will also meet the fate of my daughter but Police did not provide any protection to us. On August 8, about 15 armed goons beat me and my wife mercilessly at my home. I escaped and called the police station, the Circle Officer and the ASP but to no avail," Budhai said.
When contacted, Sitapur Superintendent of Police, Jyoti Narayan termed it a dispute between neighbours and denied that there had been any attack on the family of Budhai.
"We have investigated his case at least thrice. On all these occasions the complaints were found to be without any basis," he said. Narayan said a new officer has been asked to re-investigate.
RTI activists have been the target of violence in several cases and nine of them have been killed in different parts of the country this year forcing the Centre to consider offering protection to them under the whistleblowers category.