A report has been doing the rounds which claims that a 25-year-old Dalit youth has been reportedly beaten to death by two of his “upper caste” friends for allegedly touching their food during a private event at a village in Madhya Pradesh’s Chhatarpur district. The incident reportedly took place in Kishanpur village, about 450 km from Bhopal and close to the Uttar Pradesh border, on December 7 (Monday).
Various media outlets like ANI, Times of India, Zee News Hindi, India Today, NDTV, Scroll.in etc, have carried the news. According to all these mainstream media reports, the victim, Devraj Anuragi, was called to clean up after a party. But the accused –Bhoora Soni and Santosh Pal –who were from OBC communities- got angry when they saw Anuragi eat the food at the party and beat him to death with sticks. Devraj fell unconscious and the duo dropped him at his home. He soon succumbed to his injuries.
The leftist media portal Scroll.in reported that the Gaurihar Station House Officer Jaswant Singh Rajput has confirmed the news. India Today claimed of speaking to Chattarpur SSP Sameer Saurabh. He reportedly confirmed to the outlet that the deceased’s family members have said that “he was beaten up because he had touched the food before the two upper caste men.”
Though these media houses have invoked the purported ‘caste’ angle and insinuated that the social evil of untouchability was the reason behind the brutal killing, contrary reports have also emerged. A social media group named Falana Dhikana has claimed to have investigated the case and concluded that the ‘caste’ angle in the alleged killing is untrue and that the case was related to woman molestation.
Fake news alert. We are a group of students studying journalism at the University of Delhi and found this news false on investigating the matter. The deceased man had not attended any marriage and was not beaten for what NDTV is claiming. The case was related to woman molestation https://t.co/dlK3uuz4RV— 🍁_तान्या_भारद्वाज_🍁 (@tanyaa191401) December 10, 2020
Dalit youth’s family in Madhya Pradesh refutes ‘caste’ angle weaved by various media outlets
After learning how media outlets had reportedly called the incident a fallout of caste divide in the village, Falana Dhikana got in touch with the deceased’s relatives. Devraj Anuragi’s brother Harishchandra confirmed to Falana Dhikana that his brother had not gone out of the house the entire day on December 7, the day the incident transpired. He said, Devraj, who was mentally unstable, had been eating his food at his house on December 7, when his friend’s Bhoora Soni and Santosh Pal came to see him. They dragged him out of the house and took him to a place a little away from the house where they beat him up. At around 4:00 pm they brought him back to the house. Devraj succumbed to his injuries two hours later.
Harishchandra told Falana Dhikana that he was at his sweet shop when he heard about the incident. Harishchandra said that initially, they did not even know what the real reason was behind the assault. He also confirmed that nowhere in the FIR did they mention any ‘caste’ angle or speak of Devraj being beaten to death for touching food.
Falana Dhikana further spoke to the villagers and neighbours of the deceased. They confirmed that the sister of one of the accused- Santosh Pal had visited Harishchandra’s sweet shop on December 7, where Devraj Anuragi had reportedly molested her and forced her to sit there with him. Pal’s sister had complained about this to her brother, who along with his friend Bhoora Soni, assaulted Devraj in his house, in a fit of rage.
According to Falana Dhikana, other villagers also confirmed that Devraj had molestated Santosh Pal’s sister.
Moreover, when Falana Dhikana’s team asked relatives if Devraj had gone to someone’s wedding, the family denied it. In fact, there was no wedding in the village on the day of the incident. The family of the deceased had received an invitation for a wedding of one Parashuram Yadav, which happened a day prior to the incident. This too was not attended by Devraj. In fact, Devraj’s father- Kallu, was the only one from their family who had attended this wedding. Parshuram Yadav himself confirmed this to Falana Dhikana.
The deceased’s brother Harishchandra said that his brother was mentally unstable due to which he did not go anywhere. He either stayed at home or spent time at their sweet shop. Devraj neither attended any wedding nor did he go out on the day of the alleged incident, claimed Falana Dikhana.
OpIndia could not personally verify either of the claims. When we tried to get in touch with Chhatarpur police station to know more about the incident, the lady police official who spoke to us refused to acknowledge any such incident. We also tried to establish contact with Chattarpur SSP Sameer Saurabh, but could not get through.
Meanwhile, media outlets have reported that the two accused are on the run and that the police are looking for them. PTI quoted Chattarpur SSP Sameer Saurabh as saying that the accused have been booked under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, including murder, and under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.