A 30-year-old pregnant woman named Shalu was brutally assaulted and killed by three brahmin men in Barnia village of Lakhimpur Khera district of Uttar Pradesh on 5 October 2020 over a dispute concerning her husband, Manoj Kashyap, using a government handpump.
Kashyap, who belongs to the Kahar community, classified as Other Backward Class (OBC) in India, alleged that the murder of his wife is clearly a caste crime.
Speaking to The Caravan, Kashyap recalled the events that occurred two weeks before the incident outside the home of Anil Mishra, Sunil Mishra and Sushil Mishra, the three men charged with Shalu’s murder.
Kashyap, who works as a daily wage labourer, had gone to use the government hand pump installed outside the Mishras’ house. Even though the pump is not on their property, Anil’s wife Archana Mishra and their son tried to stop Kashyap from using it. Their son allegedly tried to beat up Kashyap and Archana picked up a huge argument.
Shalu was 5-month pregnant at the time of the incident. They are the only family from the Kahar community in the village whereas there are 200 brahmin families.
Kashyap said that on 5 October, as the tap in his home was not working, he decided to use the government handpump to take a bath and get some water for his family. Kashyap alleged that Anil’s son assaulted him again and Archana verbally abused him.
Later that day after Kashyap returned home, the three Mishra brothers and Archana came to his place. The three brothers attacked him mercilessly while his wife Shalu intervened and pleaded with them to stop beating him, said Kashyap. They then charged at Shalu with their lathis and brutally assaulted her. Kashyap took her to the local police station and later to the hospital. Shalu died later that day.
The fight for justice has been riddled with so many obstacles for Kashyap. There have been discrepancies in the charges filed against the four Mishras as Section 316 of the Indian Penal Code, causing death of quick unborn child by act amounting to culpable homicide was not added until much later. Initially, only two of the brothers were arrested and the third brother was arrested after a while. Archana Mishra who was absconding during the arrests was granted anticipatory bail last month.
Kashyap told the Caravan that he was in deep despair and had no energy to even speak about the gruesome incident. He said that although it is very clearly a casteist crime, the police is not viewing it as one. “If this is not casteist, then what is it?” he asks. With no support from the government so far, Kashyap says that he doesn’t trust the system to help him at all. He cited the Hathras incident and expressed his lack of trust in the administration. “Neither does the government listen to us, nor does the administration. You must have seen what happened in the Hathras case. This is what happens to the poor, they get no respect. Police also only supports upper castes,” he added.
Adesh Kumar Singh, the station house officer at Pasgawan police station denied that the incident was a caste crime and refused to give any further updates, Caravan reported. Kashyap, however, strongly believes that it was a caste crime.
“Upper-caste people don’t like if we talk, laugh, walk, if we buy a car, they don’t like anything. People drink water from the government handpump. Animals drink water, only we cannot go. It’s not even in their boundary. Yet, they wanted to do something about that incident. They just wanted to rob my happiness, so they did it,” he told The Caravan.
The case is still pending in court.