He was the only son of his landless parents in a village named as Udaypura in Deoria district of Uttar Pradesh. When the brick kiln season is off, most of the people from Mushahar community who live on the river bank are engaged in fishing as they have no other source of food.. This time, with so much of rain, all communities on river bank are enjoying a good fish. But October 28th i.e. Diwali day came as a devastation for Chhotu who was just 27 years old when he refused to share his fish catch with a local Brahmin who was determined for the same. The altercation happened between Chhotu and the local bully who happened to be Brahmin as he was thrashed, beaten up mercilessly and thrown in the river.
When he did not turn home, Chhotu’s pregnant wife Rinku and mother got worried about. They started looking for him but did not find. They went to the police but was of no help. Nobody was willing to speak that time. He has three small children and his wife is due for delivery again. The family live in a small house granted by the government under Indira Aawas Yojna. Chhotu was barely literate. He had passed fifth exam and like many others he was at home as there was no much of work hence fish remain the main source of their livelihood. Mushahars just fish to feed themselves.
Two days later, Chhotu’s body was recovered from the river Gandak. Well built Chhotu had lost to the brahmanical arrogance. Mushahars are the most exploited community, a thoroughly landless, they are political unrepresented and have no space in the popular movements so far. The literacy rate is very low. People do not reach them and those who go now just for the sake of ‘social work’, too treat them shabbily. It is not that the fight would have been for ‘fish’ alone. The Hippocratic thing is that the Brahmins and other of their social order dont ‘eat’ meat or non vegetarian things during this festive season. It shows the absolute thuggish character that you want to snatch his catch which poor Chhotu was having for his family. The fact is Mushahars are maltreated and looked down upon in contempt. The powerful and dominant communities of all varieties hate to see any person with marginalised sections ‘rejecting’ their ‘order’. Chhotu paid a price for his ‘rejection’ as Mushahars dont sell fish but are depended on it for their survival. Most of the government schemes are trapped in deep corruption and rarely reach them.
But in the last one decade because of various initiatives Mushahars are standing and speaking up. They are demanding their rights and are uniting too. When the police did not file the FIR, the villagers went to the District Headquarter and lodged a protest with the district magistrate. The police officers, though, were supportive yet, had their hand tied for the two days ‘Chhuth Festival’ when people worship Sun. The rivers will be crowded tomorrow with devotees. Chhotu’s father had actually given a written complain against the two persons of the village but the police did not act. After much effort of local activist Sangeeta Kushwaha the administration promised to act after the festive season is over.
Most of the time, our administration and police are busy in arranging the things in the name of ‘festivities’ and hence the lives of human being, particularly those who are not even considered human, does not matter.
We hope the administration will act on the complaint and bring justice to the family of Chhotu. His family must be duely compensated . We will be steadily monitoring the case so that the criminals are punished.
Vidya Bhushan Rawat is a social activist