Saturday, July 26, 2014

Is this the price for being Musahar?

My name is Harinath Mushahar and I am 50 years old. I am son of Late Shyama Mushahar. I live in Barji village, Post: Nayapur, Police Station: Phulpur, Block: Badagaon, Tehsil: Pindra, District: Varanasi. My wife is Gulabi Mushahar. I had 2 sons, Mulayam, 20 and Subhash, 10, both of them died ten years back due to disease. My daughter, Meena Mushahar, who is 25 year old is married and has children.

Apart from working in the field as a landless labourer, I make leaf plates and sell it for making a living. Suddenly, on February 1988, just 2 days after Basant Panchami, I was sleeping under the thatched roof along with my family members. Just at around 4 a.m. there was a knock at the door, when my wife opened the door, she saw the police. Seeing the police, she started trembling in fear and ran towards me to inform. Without waiting for any response, then 2 policemen barged inside and pounced on me, grabbing my arms wanted to take me to the police station. Then I asked, “Why you are taking me to the police station?” Then, a policeman retorted back, “Keep quite, bastard, would you go or I have to bash you.” Then, my wife pleaded but it fell on deaf ears. When they pulled me outside, then I saw Ramdev Yadav, Rambali, Vikrama Pehlwan, Kanhaiya, Dr. Bhaiyalal telling the police, ‘Arrest Lalman’. Seeing them Lalman was trying to flee. Lalman and I, both of us were taken Phulpur police station.               

The facts are that at around prior to our arrest, at around 11 pm my brother Lalman was asked to pull on the rickshaw. My brother had just come after seeing off her daughter and told, “I am perpetually tired and can’t go.” Then, he retorted back. “I would teach you a lesson.” He went away. On that night there was a theft and we were arrested. After police took us to the lock up, my wife rushed to panchayat pradhan Shiv Babu Yadav for help. He told, “What we can do? There has been theft so police has taken them into custody.”    

Reached Phulpur police station I was wearing a vest, while raining incessant blows with wooden stick, shouted on me, “You have committed theft.” I responded, “No Sahab.” But they never talked beyond merciless beating. Police continued thrashing me for 8 days and pressurised me to fall on their and accept that we had committed the theft. When the police rained blows then I used to shout in pain, but then also they did not stop, till I got drained off. Then, they used to live me like a dead corpse. Many a times, they used to hang me from the ceiling, rained blows continuously blood oozed out from body, and then also they did not stop. One day the police beat me so mercilessly, that I lied comatose and unconscious for hours together. Four policemen were moving over my body and pounding with wooden stick as it seemed they were walking on the field but not over a human being.  While narrating the police’s savagery tears jerks out of my eyes.

There was no one to advocate for us. Whenever any high official visited the police station, police used to hide us. Due to continuous thrashing my fingers were fractured, legs swollen and I was not able to walk. Police used to give us one meal a day, it’s was quite difficult to take food, I used to writhe terribly in pain but then also neither they applied any ointment nor they gave any oral medicine for healing the wounds. The pain was unbearable. The place where I used to sleep, there was an obnoxious stink which kept me awake throughout the night. I was so disturbed when I think about those days in jail I feel awful. That time it seemed that I would not be able to walk alive back to my home.

Day and night, family’s worries used to bother me. I used to think, if my wife visits me in the lock up then she would be upset seeing my condition. On the eighth day I was sent to the jail. Then I stayed there for two and half months, where I was treated. When I was in jail, I became desperate enough to see my wife and children. It always crossed over my mind, what fate had befallen on me and I am suffering for whose sins, is it not that I am facing it for being born as a ‘Mushahar’      

Waiting for my bail I spent two and half months. After being released, I had to appear on the hearing of my case. Sindhora’s Mahender Singh was our advocate. Whatever I could save from my meagre earning by toiling in other’s fields I had to spend on my case. In the day time I was busy in my work and during the night I had to pass through anxious moments thinking that if I am punished then who would shoulder my children’s responsibilities. When I think about it I start perspiring. Day and night I toiled hard and could get my daughter married. Prior to my daughter’s marriage, Subhash died as water filled his stomach and triggered serious ailment.  When we took him to Basni Hospital for his treatment the doctor gave some tablets and told that the stomach water would be released through urine.

Ill-fate had befallen on us as due to impoverished condition my son was deprived of a proper treatment. As medicine vanish from Government hospitals, so my son also left this world. If he would have been alive then he would lend his helping hand in my hour of distress. His face is etched in my mind still I cannot comprehend the fact that he had died. It seems to me that he has gone somewhere soon he would come back but the reality was different. Losing son thereafter getting daughter married had increased my woes. Many a times, it came in my mind if I am punished then what would happen to my daughter, which would help in losing respect and esteem within the community. If a poor man like loses respect and admiration, then everything is lost for him. By one way or the other I could arrange some money and then I got my daughter married. After her marriage, the days passed by appearing in the court for the case.   

On 16th April 2002, the Court awarded imprisonment, which distanced me from my family members. On that day I and my brother, Lalman reached the Court in the morning. Our name was called after the Judge occupied his seat. My advocate asked us to stand at the dock. Then, he whispered something on Judge’s ear. At around 2 p.m. the court broke for the lunch and the Judge went away. Filled with fear, I went to the Judge then he told me, “Go I am coming. I trusted him and I came back to my seat.

Post lunch the Judge came. I was seeing towards the door, the advocate was coming or not. I was getting frightened. Court’s reader made an announcement for the post-lunch session. Then the Judge gave the ruling, “Sentenced for 10 years of imprisonment as booked under 382 and 459 IPC and penalty of Rs. 17,000.”

It was shocking for me, my face grew red, and I started sweating. Police took me to Chokaghat jail. After reaching the jail, in the night I could not sleep crossing over my mind how my family members would confront the situation. They did not know that I had been jailed. They were thinking that I might have gone to my sister’s house. Next day, they came to know about my 10 years of imprisonment. Gloom and sadness descended over my home. When they went to the advocate to ask him he just bluffed and told that we had asked to be forgiven so we were sentenced for 10 years of imprisonment. When it was narrated to me it hurt me terribly and started crying.

Some days after staying at Chokaghat jail I was shifted to Central jail. I was kept in No. 1 cell of the second barrack. I was assigned the job of cleaning the barrack and filling up water where the Pakistani prisoners were kept. In the morning my work finished at 10 a.m. and then I had to work from 2 to 5 p.m, which I had to do for two and half years. Where I stayed I had sweep the floor. But the toilet used to stink so badly. That obnoxious smell used to engulf my mind and it was difficult for me to consume food. I used to take just to keep myself alive. Whenever I sat for the meals, I used to think about my family members have they taken their food or not, my arms used to stop and tears fell down from my eyes

After two and half years, at Central jail’s Shivpur farm, 6 jail inmates were assigned the work of farming of 6 acres. Each prisoner had to do ploughing and weeding of an acre. During the cultivation of seasonal vegetables, cereals and food grains, hundreds of prisoners were mobilised. After putting up a hard toil covering whole of the day we were given Rs. 10 as a daily wage. On Sundays, we had to work but we were not paid single paise. When I asked twice why we were not paid wages for the work done on Sundays, then they responded Sundays are holidays so we do not pay. I used to think, are there holidays in jail but I could not ask them out of fear. We used to toil hard for 30 days in the month but 15days were entered in the register and 15 percent from our wages went as commission to the contractor. 

At that time, I used to think ‘what a fate had befallen on me!’ Many a times I cried and laughed on my pathetic conditions. In the jail, I earned through sweat and blood of my hard toil but that’s also being snatched away by others. I was put behind the bars on trumped up charges without committing any crime.

After day’s hard toil, we were served badly roasted chapattis, lentils in which water was proportionately higher, greenstuffs like spinach were fried without oil. I was afflicted by tuberculosis (TB) due to insufficient food and hard toil. Continuously I had to take medicines for 6 months to cue my TB. I was served milk and eggs but couldn’t consume it as health conditions were quite precarious. Coupled with my ailment were anxieties about my family, which was turning me into a physical wreck. Whenever there were rains, I used to think if the thatched roof is leaking then where all the family members are sleeping. Days passed by while working but my nights were sleepless as worries and anxieties filled up my restless mind.

After 6 months of TB treatment, I started working. I used to toil day and night even if sun hovered over my head or in the biting cold. Days, months, and years passed like as if crossing the high peaks of the mountains. It was quite a delightful moment, though quite a shorter one, when family members came to meet me at the jail. After few days, again a desire to meet them grew in me. One day, when my family members came to meet me I handed over Rupees Five Thousand which I earned while working in the jail. Once I passed on Rs. 1,000 and then, Rs. 2,000 but took away Rs. 500 for my personal consumption to purchase soap and oil. In the jail I worked in the field for 7 years.  

In 2009, I asked the police officer, “When I would go home?” Then, his response was that my jail term had finished two months back as I was unable to pay the penalty and tuberculosis I would be released on 2nd February 2011. After his response, I started counting the days and used to think if I had the penalty to pay and not afflicted by tuberculosis then I could have been in home. The days passed by.

2nd February was day of celebration for me. Earlier I had informed my family members. I was besieged by happiness and I did not take any food. The  Superintendent of Police (SP) came and went to the parade. I was waiting for him with bated breath.  I was thinking I would go to my home and village. I would breathe in fresh air liberated from the shackles of bondage. Back home and village I would see it in same condition, when I left. 

Seeing the Superintendent of Police (SP) coming, I rushed to the office, and then he handed over a cheque of Rs. 6,081 and gave me Rs. 500. After being released I briskly walked towards my home. Then, tears jerked through my eyes and it seemed that happiness was all around me. 

Reaching home, I spent the entire night talking to my wife and children. After being jailed, my wife stayed at her sister’s place in Varanasi for two years. For earning a living she carried lanterns or tube lights over her head in wedding ceremonies at night. She made leaf plates to run the household. My son toiled hard to earn Rs. 35 as a daily wage. Listening to their woes I cried incessantly.

Framed in false case I was 9 years away from my family members rotting in the jail. Whenever, they visited me in jail smilingly they met, hiding their woes. They thought if I came to know their difficulties I would be further disturbed. Seeing them I also covered up my gloom. Fearing police framing trumped up case against my son as it happened with me, I sent away my son to Mumbai.

False case was framed against me and jailed for 10 years. I lost 10 years which   won’t come back. What I want that it should not happen with others. I feel that what I narrated to you, it’s happening before my eyes.  
Coming back from the jail, I am no more interested to go any where. After being punished for so many years I started thinking myself as guilty. I think what people might be thinking about me. I am mentally disturbed. Due continuous police beating and the hard toil which I put in jail for years together, there is always terrible pain in my body. 
Testimony derived from testimonial Therapy initiative of People’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR) and Dignity: Danish Institute against Torture

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