Murder and Mystery: Silence Shrouds Tragic Tale of a Dalit Family in Bhopal

TCN Correspondent

Bhopal: Following the deaths of three members in the past one year, silence prevails at Raghuvir Ahirwar’s home. This Dalit family lives on the outskirts of Naunagir village in Badohia area of Madhya Pradesh’s Sagar district.

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Besides his wife, he had three sons and one daughter. Last year, his youngest son, Nitin, was murdered. Subsequently, his brother, Rajendra, was killed as a result of scuffle in a meeting — which was convened on May 25 to hold negotiations and reach a compromise.

When his body was being brought back after postmortem, Raghuvir’s daughter, Anjana, died under suspicious circumstances. She was third in the family after two brothers.

The family claims that Rajendra was called for negotiations, and when he did not agree for a compromise, he was beaten so badly that he died. Rajendra was also a witness to Nitin’s murder last year.

At present, the family is not only in shock but also concerned about their safety.

The trial for the first killing was supposed to begin from June 20. Pressure was allegedly being mounted on the family not to say anything against the accused in their testimony.

Following the beating, injured Ragendra was taken to the local hospital, which referred him to Bhopal. He died on the way. His postmortem was conducted, and when his body was being brought back, Anjana, who was also in the vehicle, died from “falling off” the vehicle.

The police said according to the information so far, she “fell off the vehicle accidentally” and succumbed to injuries. However, there is no confirmation of the circumstances, which led to her death. Her autopsy report, according to investigators, states that she sustained injuries after falling. The incident happened about 20 kilometers away from the village.

Family’s Allegations

Anjana’s mother Ram Sakhi alleges that her daughter was murdered. “Everyone knew that Anjana was aware of everything. She knew how to speak her mind, so the accused were afraid of her. That is why she was killed,” she alleged.

Listing out the sequence of the events, the deceased brother, Vishnu, said, “It began in 2019 when our sister was sexually harassed. Based on her complaint, a case was filed. The accused were constantly pressuring us to settle the matter. But when we refused to budge, Nitin was murdered on August 24, 2023. When my mother got to know about the assault, she rushed to the place where he was being thrashed. They beat her as well and stripped naked.”

After that, he continued, they (the accused) came home and wreaked havoc. “They even attacked our horse that led to its death after 15 days,” he alleged.

Vishnu works as a laborer in the village and also rents out his horse for weddings. He alleged the influential Thakur (an ‘upper’ caste) family, with which a few of the accused are associated with, in the village are still harassing them.

“The main accused in this case is not even named in the FIR. The police must add his name,” he demanded.

He also alleged a powerful leader, who was a minister during the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government, has been protecting the accused, who are his relatives.

Why is this family being targeted? Vishnu answered the query, saying, “We live an isolated life here. We do go to anyone’s house, but the village goons want us to go to them, bow down and be afraid like other people.”

Before her death, Anjana had pleaded with the government through local media to ensure the arrest of all accused and raze their houses.

Where did the Case Start From?

The entire case started in 2019 when Anjana was allegedly sexually harassed, but the police registered a case of assault and four on January 26, 2019. Three of the accused belong to the Thakur family, and one was a youth named Raikwar. All of them were granted bail. This case is still pending in the court.

The accused family was allegedly pressuring the victim’s family to reach a compromise and withdraw the case.

On August 24, 2023, the victim’s younger brother, Nitin, was murdered near the village bus stand. When the mother went to save him, she was also allegedly stripped and beaten.

The police registered a case against nine named persons and four others and arrested them. One of them has been granted bail, while the others are still behind bars.

The Ahirwars alleged the accused were continuously pressuring them not to give any statement against them in any way.

Actions So Far

In connection with Rajendra’s murder, the police have registered a case against five people. One of them has been arrested so far. The names of those against whom the case has been registered are Fahim Khan, Babloo Bena, Israel Bena, Tantu Qureshi and Ashiq Qureshi.

Sagar’s Superintendent of Police Abhishek Tiwari, stated, “The police have gathered technical evidence in the entire case. Several people have been interrogated, and everyone is being examined to facilitate further action.”

He said an investigation is also being conducted into Anjana’s death, and currently, it appears that she accidentally fell off the vehicle and died due to a head injury.

“An investigation into all aspects is underway. There are multiple angles to this, and questioning is being carried out continuously so that the culprits can be brought to justice. The police are not showing any negligence in this matter. The family has been provided with complete security,” he further stated.

As per the details, 14 cases, including theft, attempt to murder and rioting, were registered against the deceased — Rajendra. Nitin had seven cases, which included theft and rioting, registered against him. The family’s only surviving son Vishnu too is facing charges of theft and attempt to murder.

What Does the Accused Family Say?

The victims claimed Ankit Singh Thakur is the main accused. However, he denied having any involvement in the case. “None of our family members have any criminal record. We are being implicated in this matter.”

In Nitin’s murder, four accused belong to Ankit’s family. Three of them are still in jail. The man who is out on bail is 77 years old.

Ankit alleged the deceased family has created an atmosphere in the entire village where everyone is living in “fear”. He also alleged the Opposition (the Congress) is consistently politicizing the issue and spoiling the atmosphere in the neighbourhood.

Political Reactions

Chief Minister Dr Mohan Yadav visited the village and met the Ahirwar family.He was accompanied by Bhupendra Singh who has been accused of providing protection to the accused.

He assured that the accused would be punished as soon as possible and the victims would be provided full security. He also ordered the establishment of a police outpost in the village.

However, Vishnu said, “The chief minister has not given any assurance whatsoever. He only said that he would consider our demands. We want an investigation into the case by the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) so that we get justice.”

Earlier, two Congress leaders visited the victims. Former Chief Minister Digvijay Singh, who also participated in Anjana’s funeral procession, was the first to arrive. He had also visited the family when Nitin was killed.

Meanwhile, Congress state president Jitu Patwari also met with the family. He had demanded a financial assistance of Rs 50 lakh for the victim’s family and called for a CBI investigation into the entire matter.

Raising objection on Bhupendra Singh accompanying Yadav, the party sought to know whether the chief minister visited the victims to console or threaten them.

Azad Samaj Party leader Sunil Astey, who is also president of the Bhim Army, accused the police administration of being negligent in the matter.

He alleged “upper caste” people still suppress Dalits in the area, and if they are not listened to, a lesson is taught in this way.

The village residents too affirmed the allegation, saying the Dalits even today cannot go in front of the domineering people of the village wearing shoes and slippers.

They said it is necessary to be politically competent to file an FIR in this area. “The police can make anyone an accused and anyone a victim. The more politically capable you are, the more you can be domineering and the same is happening here too,” they added.

A policeman has been deployed outside the Ahirwar family’s house, and operation CCTV cameras have been installed. The cameras were installed after the murder last year, but it was non-functional.