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Two Dalit children were brutalised before being killed while defecating outside the farm of Yadavs in an MP village. These were their last 24 hours...
News18 Immersive
24.
Two Dalit children were brutalised before being killed while defecating outside the farm of Yadavs in an MP village. These were their last 24 hours...
Two Dalit children were brutalised before being killed while defecating outside the farm of Yadavs in an MP village. These were their last 24 hours...
BY ROUNAK KUMAR GUNJAN

On the morning of September 25, two Dalit children, a 10-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl, were beaten to death for defecating outside a farmland. When News18 visited Madhya Pradesh's Bhavkhedi village, where this incident took place, we found not just a family mourning the death of its children but grieving over a systematic, oppressive assertion of caste that had left them brutalised and helpless.

News18 found that the deceased girl was forced to clean toilets in her school; that she was too scared to step out of her house for the fear of being molested by the same men who killed her later. We found the story of the deceased boy who saw his family suffer humiliation on a daily basis and who probably died trying to save the 12-year-old girl from the sexual predators that fateful morning.

After speaking to the family of the victims, class fellows, school teachers, panchayat members, community leaders, policemen and villagers, News18 has put together this account of the last 24 hours of the children who were brutally murdered.

6:30 am. September 24
No Toilet

Jyoti* (12) and Vivek* (10) wake up at 5:30 am. As part of their daily routine, they go out to defecate outside the farmland of Rameshwar and Hakam Yadav. They go there because there is no source of water or toilet in their home. The closest source of water with which they can wash themselves is a borewell installed outside the farmland of the Yadavs. Little do they know that 24 hours later, they will be killed at the same spot.

Vivek’s mother has already relieved herself before dawn. While the children are out, she is boiling milk for Vivek’s younger siblings. Bablu*, who is Vivek’s father and Jyoti’s brother, is out to get neem twigs which they’ll all use to brush their teeth with.

"Do not get your daughter married, unless there is a toilet in the house," painted on the wall of a school in the village as a part of the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM). (Photo: Rounak Kumar Gunjan)

For the past three years, their father wrote several letters to the village head, the Sarpanch, to get financial assistance to construct a toilet. The Swachh Bharat Mission provides Rs 12,000 to the rural poor for construction of toilets. “Everybody received assistance from the Gram Panchayat. The Sarpanch keeps denying my pleas because I am a Valmiki,” said Bablu.

8:00 am
No House

Tea and biscuits are served for breakfast. Jyoti, while sipping her tea, is folding bed sheets that also double up as their mattresses. The kids are excited as soon as they are told that they’ll be going to the house of Bablu’s father, Bhim, the next morning. Vivek is making plans about all the fun he’ll have at his grandfather’s house. “When will we leave,” Vivek keeps asking his mother. They’re going to Bhim’s home because it’s raining and they live in a mud house, which will soon get swamped. Bhim has a pucca house at the other end of the village. There, they’ll stay dry. It is an annual ritual.

“I don’t have a cemented house and water gets inside,” Bablu told News18. The family lives in a 10 feet-by-6 feet mud house, substantially smaller than toilets in even modestly priced apartment in cities.

Most villagers got their house constructed under Pradhan Mantri Indira Awas Yojana. The family again wrote several letters asking for financial assistance, but all in vain. As per the existing scheme, funding of Rs 70,000 is provided to the poor in plain areas.

Bablu with his family outside their mud house in Bhavkhedi village, Madhya Pradesh. (Photo: Rounak Kumar Gunjan)

“I am the poorest in the village, but my application was never accepted. How am I supposed to believe that it is not because of caste bias?” asked Bablu.

Members of the Gram Panchayat denied allegations of discrimination. “Why will we not want him to have a house? There were irregularities in his applications,” said Shankar Yadav, one of the panchs. The Sarpanch belongs to the family of the accused. He had left the village after the Yadav brothers were arrested. The Sarpanch could not be contacted for this story.

The village is dominated by the Yadav community. There are 30-40 Jatav households, who are also Dalits like Bablu’s family, but from a different sub-caste.

9:00 am
No School

Vivek and Jyoti go out to play. They run around, pushing bicycle tyres with wooden sticks. They should be in school right now. But they had dropped out of school. Or rather, were forced out by their teachers who wouldn't let them forget for even a minute that the two young children were different from everyone else. That they came from the lowest caste and had to be treated ‘accordingly’.

Their parents and classmates say that the teachers used to make Vivek and Jyoti sit away from the rest of the students. They were asked to get their own mats and utensils. They were not allowed to drink water from the common water dispenser.

Jyoti had also complained to Bablu that the teachers had made her clean toilets several times.

Meanwhile, Bablu is starting to feel anxious. He has not received any phone calls for work. He and his wife talk about running out of money, running out of rice. Being a Dalit means Bablu doesn’t get to decide how he earns his living. He does whatever job comes his way.

Prashant, the school headmaster denied the allegations. “This is baseless. The school is a place to study. They dropped out because they were not interested in studying,” he said.

However, two 13-year-olds in the same school opened up about the incidents. One of Jyoti’s friends said, “Jyoti could not eat in the utensils provided in school. She used to carry a plate with her.”

10:00 am
No Water

Vivek, his mother and Jyoti go out to fetch water. Vivek does not like going to the hand pump. He doesn’t like to wait there for over an hour, looking at all the other villagers fetching water before it is their turn. Being a Valmiki means that they can’t join the queue. They have to wait for the queue to end, for the last Yadav to get all the water they want before it is their turn. Being a Valmiki means that the pump they use has to be washed by upper caste women to ‘purify’ it for others.

Vivek tugs at his mother's saree and asks her to get water from someplace else. On festivals, it gets worse. Vivek and Jyoti walk back home with water in small steel pots. Bablu has received a call for work at a nearby farmland.

“We cannot even touch the hand pump during festivals. The other women pour water into our buckets from a height and then they wash their containers," said Vivek’s mother.

11:00 am
No Work

Vivek accompanies Bablu for work. On the way, Vivek keeps narrating stories about his friends. Bablu generally does not take Vivek along for work because of the way the employers treat Bablu. He doesn’t want his son to see what could be his future. It could break the little child’s spirit.

Bablu has no fixed job. He sometimes cleans toilets for Rs 20. He is an agricultural worker on some days and a construction worker on others. He also plays drums at weddings.

The upper caste call him a ‘Bhangi’. When he’s playing drums at a wedding, he’s not allowed to walk with the wedding procession. He plays at a distance from the gathering. He is made to sit and eat where used plates are dumped.

Jyoti stays back to help with cooking. But this afternoon, her sister-in-law asks her to cook less rice than she usually does. They are running out of rice.

Vivek is too tired to eat by the time he and his father return for lunch. Rice and tomato puree is served while he sleeps on the floor, utterly exhausted.

6:00 pm
No Freedom

Jyoti is still at home. She is scared to step out of the house after sunset. Jyoti’s sister-in-law and Vivek are at the hand pump again for water. Bablu is at the local grocery store, bargaining for rice.

Two months ago, one of the Yadav brothers had allegedly tried to sexually assault her. He had threatened to kill her if she told anybody about it.

The spot where the two children lay dead outside a farm owned by Hakam and Rameshwar Yadav. (Photo: Rounak Kumar Gunjan)

Jyoti’s elder sister said, “Almost two months ago, she came home in the evening crying and told me that Hakam Yadav had tried to force himself on her.”

Jyoti’s sister-in-law and Bablu’s wife corroborated the incident and said that she didn’t tell her husband about it due to fear of a fight.

“We are the only Valmiki family in the village. In case of a fight, nobody would have supported us. We really would have been killed,” she said.

6:30 am. September 25
The Murder

Vivek and Jyoti are outside the Yadav farm, defecating.

Bablu is awake but there’s no work to do, so he’s just lying down in his house. He hears a loud cry from Jyoti. He thinks the kids are playing. But Jyoti’s scream is immediately followed by the scream of Vivek.

He rushes out of the house. He sees his son running towards the farm. He could not see Jyoti.

By the time he and the rest of the villagers reach the farmland, they find the kids dead.

Jyoti's clothes are torn. The string of her pajamas is undone.



***

Life After

Rameshwar and Hakam Yadav, residents of the same village, were arrested on Bablu’s complaint under a case of murder and the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

The FIR, however, does not mention molestation. Asked about the same, Bablu said, “I had my child’s dead body in my arms. My youngest sister was lying motionless in front of me. I was not in my senses to speak or explain the incident. I just told the police they were beaten to death by the two Yadav brothers.”

Local Police officers said there was no official complaint of molestation, but if the investigation reveals any such angle, they will take strict action and will include relevant sections under the Indian Penal Code.

Family members preparing biers for the deceased children. (Photo: Ashok Aggarwal)

Bablu and his younger brother go out looking for wood for the pyre. None of the families, not even Jatavs, help them. They head to the wild to gather wood themselves. After the last rites, Bablu begs the administration for a home outside the village. The administration promises him that arrangements will be made at district headquarters. It has been a week since the murder, but Bablu and his family are yet to find a safer place to stay.

*All names except those of the accused have been changed to protect the identities of the victims and their families


With inputs from Ashok Aggarwal.


Credits

Illustration — Mir Suhail