Mockery of Democracy in Belwa, Varanasi, India sign now

To,

Chief Minister

U.P. India



Sir,

I want to draw your attention to village Belwa under Badagaon Block in district Varanasi. There is a serious crisis of rule of law in the village because feudal practices are still going on: which is mockery of democracy in India.

For the last 27 years the dalits and the backward community in Belwa Village in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India was not able to cast their vote in any election. The upper caste dominated village in Varanasi District of Utter Pradesh never allowed the lower caste community to enjoy their right to vote. The reasons are manifold. The lower caste and the backward community is a source of free labour and faced all sought of exploitation. The caste Hindus were afraid that if their slaves were allowed to vote, they would capture power, which might eventually put an end to their exploitation.



For the Village Panchayath election, which just concluded on 17 August 2005, Mr. S. N. Giri, an accepted figure and human rights activist working for the dalits and the backward community filed his nomination as a candidate. Mr. Rajendra Tiwari, the former Village Headman who held the post unchallenged for about 25 years immediately realized the threat to his unchallenged power. He had contested the election formerly through his wife when the seat was reserved for a woman candidate. Mr. Tiwari and his men threatened Mr. Giri and told him that if he did not withdraw his nomination he and his colleague Mr. Lenin Raghuvanshi of Peoples Vigilance Committee for Human Rights (PVCHR) and their family members would be assassinated.



On receipt of the threat Mr. Lenin of PVCHR contacted the AHRC seeking for help to intervene in the situation. The AHRC immediately issued an Urgent Appeal through its urgent appeals network and also contacted various other local and international organisations, including the UN bodies calling for immediate protection of Mr. Giri and Mr. Lenin. The UN responded through its Special Procedures Branch for Human Rights Defenders. The AHRC also contacted various government bodies and foreign consulates in India seeking support.



Due to the immense pressure from various corners, including from local and international organisations there was a response from the state government. The person who called Mr. Lenin and threatened him was arrested and later released on bail. There was a huge police presence during the immediate days prior to election and during the day of election. The following statement by Mr. Lenin itself would show how elections were held in the past and how it was held on 17 August 2005.



The police did something, which never happened in the past. They came with public address systems and announced at the upper caste Hindu areas that if anyone would create confusion and commotion preventing the dalits and the lower caste from casting their vote they would be immediately taken into custody according to law. Similarly they went to the lower caste houses and announced that they are free to cast their vote and that every protection would be given for them to exercise their right. This continued for two days immediately prior to the election.



The day of poling was interesting. The dalits and the backward community started pouring in from the morning. But initially many stood behind and watched and once they were sure that no one would attack them as in the past they formed long queues and cast their vote. One another interesting element is that the women from the upper caste also came in huge numbers. Probably Mr. Tiwari was convinced that unless he let their women to exercise their right he would fail the election. The District magistrate also came to the place early in the morning and announced that anyone who disrupts the election proceeding would be immediately taken into custody and those who attempt armed attack would be shot.



At about 1 pm some people, whom we suspect are the aides of Mr. Tiwari tried to cast vote on false names and tried playing fraud. To our surprise they were arrested and taken into custody. To my memory, but for this election, never was there an election here, which could be anywhere called as an election. On the election day people employed by the upper caste candidate would come, take all the ballot papers, fix the seal of the candidate of their choice and the put it back in the ballot box and the entire election would be over within a matter of few hours and those who challenged this never could live in Belwa anymore.



But this time it was different. I do not know how to thank all those who made this possible for us. Now the question is to maintain the same calm and peace for the counting, which is coming up next week. I hope things will go smoothly. This is the result of a collective work.

After the instruction of SSP Varanasi a FIR was lodged under section 504,506 IPC of crime number 117/2005 at Phoolpur police station on 7 August 2005 against Mr. Ramashray Singh, but FIR was not registered to commit the offence of making disturbance in election process. It should be noted that FIR under crime no. 117/2005 was registered due to the intervention of AHRC. After issuing action alert by AHRC, many protest letters and email were sent from many corner of the world to NHRC, Chief minister of UP, SSP and DM of Varanasi. One of the protest letters in this respect sent by INSEC, Nepal to NHRC, India was treated as a petition (case no.: 14004/24/05-06/UC) and NHRC issued notice to SSP, Varanasi. Then responding to this SSP, Varanasi appointed to SPRa (Superintendent of Police: rural area) for the in-depth enquiry. On a letter from FIAN international, Chief Minister of UP gave an order to SSP, Varanasi to make an enquiry in this case of death threatening.

The feudal forces or upper caste do not want to loose their hold from village, so they try ruthlessly again and again to capture the power anyhow. They are not habitual to tolerate the equality of dalit and backward communities. You can see that on 14 October 2005 during the next voting for block development committee and district panchayat election. They (upper caste) captured the booth for fake voting, as they were very well aware of my absence from the area during election period. Again by booth capturing and giving threatening to dalit and backwards, they knowingly wanted to demoralize the dalit and backwards community. This is the common practice of upper caste people and feudal forces that they know very well that they can maintain their unequal and exploitative social, economic and political privilege by demoralizing dalit and backwards communities. For that purpose they can make threatening, insulting, luring and even killing.

According to the complaint made by villagers of Belwa to District Magistrate of Varanasi on 14.10.2005 during voting two persons named Guddu Tiwari son of Rajendra Tiwari and Dabloo Singh (Muscle man of Rajendra Tiwari) captured force fully booth number 119,120,121,123 and snatched the voting paper from voters and got it stamped for their own candidate and dropped this fake voting papers in ballot box. Till now neither any action was taken against culprits nor the election was cancelled of above-mentioned booths, because Mr. Aparajita Singh, who is Chief election commissioner of UP, is a resident of same village and he played a biased role in this respect to not cancel the election.

Since 2000, Dr. Lenin has been working with the dalits and the backward community in Belwa village, under the jurisdiction of the Phoolpur police station in Varanasi. One of the issues Dr. Lenin focuses on is education for children from the Dalit and backward community and the right to self determination for these community members. Dr. Lenins colleague, Mr. S. N. Giri is also involved in this work. Mr. Giri is an accepted person among the Dalits and the backward community in the village.



To provide education to the children from these communities, Dr. Lenin with the help of the benefactor families and with financial assistance from CRY, an international organisation, has started a local school where approximately 200 children receive primary education. It is alleged that the local village head Mr. Ranjedra Thiwari, who has held this position for the last 27 years, is opposed to the presence of this school. Since the post of the village head has been reserved for a woman, Mr. Thiwaris wife is holding the post. It is also alleged that Mr. Thiwari in the past has publicly declared that the children from the Dalit and backward community do not have a right to education and that no one from this community has the right to cast their vote in any election. Mr. Thiwari comes from the upper Brahmin caste.



It is alleged that owing allegiance to the pressure from the upper caste community, the state government has not provided any school for the lower caste and backward community in this village despite their long pending demand. These children are also not permitted to attend other schools. On 26 August 2003, Dr. Lenin and his colleagues, together with the support from the local lower caste and backward community, organised a protest before the Sub Divisional Magistrate in Varanasi. Dr. Lenin was immediately arrested and detained by the authorities. The Sub Divisional Magistrate also comes from the same caste as Mr. Thiwari. Dr. Lenin was released after four hours of detention following a huge outcry from individuals and groups within the national and international community.



This village and its surrounding places are known for booth capturing and election fraud. In 2001, a peoples tribunal headed by Mr. Justice Sukumaran concluded after a public hearing that there is a clear denial of the right to vote for Dalits and the backward community. The tribunal in its report categorically stated that the police, administration and even the judiciary is biased against the Dalits and the backward community. Belwa was also in the news when there was rampant booth capturing during the 21 February 2002 election in which Mr. Ajay Rai was declared elected to the state legislative assembly. During this election, many people from the Dalit and backward community were brutally assaulted when they came to cast their vote. It is alleged that Mr. Rai is known for his involvement in numerous criminal activities.



Belwa will hold another election on 17 August 2005. Mr. Giri, Dr. Lenins associate has filed a nomination from Belwa and it is expected that he will be a strong contender in the election owing to his popularity amongst the poor, Dalits and the backward community. On August 5 at about 8 am, a Mr. Rama Sharay Singh called Dr. Lenin on his mobile phone (number 9415810955) and demanded that Mr. Giri withdraw his nomination. Dr. Lenin responded that to file the nomination and to stand for election is Mr. Giris right and that no one can object to that. Around the same time, Mr. Giri also received threats in the village where he was working and therefore immediately went to Dr. Lenins office in Varanasi. At about 8.35 p.m. on August 7, Mr. Singh again called Dr. Lenin on the same number and threatened that if Mr. Giri did not withdraw his nomination, Dr. Lenin and his family and Mr. Giri will be shot dead.



This is not the first time that Dr. Lenin and his colleagues have come under the line of fire of the upper castes. On 13 November 2001, Mrs. Durga, an activist associated with Dr. Lenins organisation and her husband Mr. Adya Prasad were attacked by Mr. Thiwari and his armed men. A month ago, on October 23, Dr. Lenin and his wife Mrs. Shruti were attacked by Mr. Thiwaris men for organising an educational campaign. Immediately after the incident, Mr. Thiwari called Dr. Lenin and informed him that he would be murdered along with his family if he continued his work. Mr. Thiwari has also threatened that he would kill Ms. Asha Devi, a teacher in the local school for educating Dalit children.

Since 2001 Dalit and backward castes children and their parents have been making demand for opening the primary School in dalit ghetto of Belwa village. On 21 October 2005,children from these communities of Belwa village organized a protest before District Magistrate of Varanasi.They gave petition for opening of primary school under the fundamental right of education.



Therefore it is requested that the rule of law should be established and administration should be made accountable to open school in village Belwa to ensure education for Dalit and backward children.

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