How harassment over an intercaste relationship destroyed a family in UP
On May 24, humiliated by a police raid after weeks of alleged harassment, the 52-year-old’s wife, 45, and their two daughters, aged 18 and 16, killed themselves by consuming poison.
A pall hung over, accentuated by the presence of armed policemen outside the house in a narrow alley of Bacchor village. The low male voices in the house belonged to the 52-year-old head of the family, and his 14-year-old son. They sounded unbearably sad.
The merry sounds of women’s voices that once rang in the family home were now silent. On May 24, humiliated by a police raid after weeks of alleged harassment, the 52-year-old’s wife, 45, and their two daughters, aged 18 and 16, killed themselves by consuming poison. A police raid that was brought on by a romantic relationship that sought to bridge the caste barrier.
A village of some 2,400 people, Bacchor is in Uttar Pradesh’s Baghpat district, barely 5km from the Chhaprauli police station. The village has a predominantly Jat population, with about 15% of residents from other castes. “There is a Harijan colony in the village, which has four families belonging to the Dalit community. Right next to that is another colony where families from OBC (other backward classes) reside,” village chief Vishal Bardhan said.
In a small village like Bacchor, romantic relationships are rare, those that cut across caste rarer, and those that manage to keep it under wraps almost unheard of. And yet, that is what the oldest son of this family, and the oldest daughter of one of their neighbours seemed to manage for a while. While the man’s family is from the OBC luhar caste, the woman’s family is Dalit.
The romance happened with proximity. Both their homes face parallel streets, separated only by a 3ft wall at the back.
In March this year though, both families found out. “The two went missing, but returned after a day. The boy was badly beaten up by the girl’s brothers, and was told not to come near her again. The police were called and a complaint was filed,” said a neighbour of the 22-year-old man’s families. “The two families talked, and he was let off.”
The man’s father made him promise that nothing like that would ever happen again. “I saved money so he would study and support our family, but instead he got involved with a woman. But I told the police he would never kidnap someone,” the father said.
The 22-year-old was enrolled in an undergraduate programme on electronics at nearby Badaut College, and worked at an electronic shop in the small town, earning about ₹15,000 a month, while the 19-year-old woman helped her mother on the farm.
As the man’s father looks back, there were telltale signs of a romantic involvement. In December last year, the man brought a new salwar suit home. A relative was to be married and his daughters thought he had brought it for them. “But he took it from them, and that is when I realised that maybe it was a gift for the girl,” he said.
Weeks of horror
All seemed calm for a while after that March incident. On May 2, however, the 22-year-old left home and did not return. The next morning, there was a knock on the door. It was the village chief and he wanted to know where he was. The woman went missing as well.
“The pradhan told me that if I don’t tell them man’s whereabouts by 4pm, they will lodge a police complaint. I told him that his mobile phone was switched off,” said the man’s father, who works as a daily wage labourer.
By May 4, a complaint under Section 366 (kidnapping, abducting or inducing woman to compel her marriage) under the Indian Penal Code was registered the Chhaprauli police station against Prince.
Days and weeks of alleged harassment followed. The man’s father said he was taken to the police station on May 5, beaten and abused, and kept in custody for two nights.
“I told them that I was upset with my son as well, and that as soon as he contacts me, I will inform police. But they took my mobile phone and I was only let go on the evening of May 6,” he said. The police raided his home nine times between May 7 and 24.
“Sub-inspector Naresh Pal used to barge into our home at any time of the day along with the girl’s father and her brothers,” the man’s father said.
On May 24, he was forced to step out, with his son untraceable and food running out.
“My wife asked me to go look for work. My daughters were not up for it, as they were scared,” he said. “I told them not to open the door unless the village pradhan was with them.”
He went to Baghu village to look for work. But at 6.30pm, his phone rang. Police were at his door again. He told his wife to bolt the door, and not open it till he could rush back. It was the last time he spoke to his wife.
Death by poison
By 8pm, the man’s father was told that his wife and daughters had consumed poison, and had been taken to the community health centre in neighbouring Chhaprauli. The three women were then referred to a private hospital in Baraut, which in turn referred them to Subharti Medical College in Meerut. They died at different times over two days.
His younger brother’s family, who live nearby, told him that police pounded the door, with the girl’s brothers and friends. “They kept shouting that they know the two of them were inside, but my wife did not open the door. She told him it was just her and the girls,” he said.
It didn’t matter. Police went across to the terrace of the girl’s house to barge into their home, broke open the terrace door, and entered without consent.
“When they could not find my son, they threatened that they will take our daughters away until their sister comes back home. They also threatened to rape my daughters,” he said.
District administration reacts too late
With the village up in arms, refusing to carry out the last rites of the women unless a case was registered against the police team, district magistrate Rajkamal Yadav and superintendent of police Neeraj Kumar Jadaun rushed to Bacchor on Wednesday.
A first information report was registered against six people under sections 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace), 506 (punishment for criminal intimidation), 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman) and 306 (abetment of suicide) of the IPC.
The six named in the complaint included those of the woman’s brothers, their village friends, and sub-inspector Pal. Pal was transferred to police lines on May 25 and an inquiry was initiated to investigate his role in the incident.
“On Thursday, preliminary investigations revealed that the women consumed poison in front of the sub-inspector and he did not make any efforts to stop this from happening,” district police chief Jadaun said.
Irate villagers have also demanded a compensation of ₹75 lakh for the death of the three women. The probe into the incident has been transferred to a special investigation team that will look into the allegations of the man’s father. No arrests have been made so far.
Just across the terrace, desolate, without the energy to swat away the flies that buzz around him, the 52-year-old constantly goes back to that day to wonder what he could have done differently. Perhaps he could have stayed home. Perhaps that was the difference between life and death. “I have no will left to live.”
There is only one subject that still brings urgency, even a sense of force to his voice — the future of his relationship with his son, and his whereabouts.
“He had sworn on my head that he would not run away with her again. And now, half my family is dead. He too is dead in my eyes,” he said.